Smoke on the Water: a poem by Lisa Paige

Editor’s note: Lisa Paige recently completed the TLA Foundations class as part of TLAN’s certificate program. In the class, students are given weekly prompts to which they may respond in any form they feel called to. The following is Lisa’s reflection on both this aspect of the class and the poem it inspired. The poem itself was in response to the July 2021 Oregon wildfires.

Participating in a TLAN course has opened my eyes to the unpredictable responses to prompts; not so much from others, because I expect that, but from myself! Who knew that after a reading for a class on facilitating writing workshops I would write a poem? It flowed like a waterfall when I had believed I was in a drought.

Experiencing the very thing we hope our workshop participants will has been the best inspiration to continue the work I’ve just begun engaging in with TLAN.

And now, humbly, my poem.

Smoke on the Water

The sky turned gray tonight. 
Oregon’s smoke reached New England, 
lapping at me like a needy puppy or
maybe more a teething bitch.

She stole the sunset, 
swirling in secretive 
ghostly spirals 
atop the pond. 

“See me?” she said,
susserating.

Once, the sky looked gray to me even on the sunniest of days. 
Now, my bright light shines even in the darkest night.
Once, I had little energy for the troubles of others -- 
never mind strangers living on a distant coast. 
Now, with every leaf that ignites in Oregon, 
I lose a part of my soul.

So is this day gray? 
Or light?

Through the clouds of Mother Earth, 
I reach for hope. 
If my life could be saved, 
so too can our home.

Lisa Paige’s essays and features have been published widely; she also ghostwrites, edits, teaches writing for wellness workshops, coaches teen writers, and is at work on a YA novel manuscript. www.insightlearning.co

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TLA in Action Series–A Virtual Greenhouse Roundtable: an interview with poets Diane Glass, Liz Burke, and Rachel Gabriel.

Note: In an effort to encourage online creative communities and friendships within our TLAN membership, we will continue to examine models of creative small groups as we develop new ways for TLAN practitioners to keep in touch. We hope this article is the first of many to feature how members support one another. 

Do you have an idea for how TLAN could grow small groups for creative nourishment and support? Please share! Contact Hanne Weedon, TLAN managing director.

Well before the pandemic began, three friends from the Transformative Language Arts Network community created a literary friendship using virtual technology. They shared a passion for poetry and a desire to support one another’s writing. Through monthly meetings, they cultivated, nurtured, and sustained a welcoming environment for producing and revising their poetry. 

“A Virtual Greenhouse–Cultivating, Nurturing, and Sustaining Creative Growth through Literary Friendship” was one of several opportunities offered in the winter of 2020 by TLAN as part of our TLA in Action Series. What follows is a summary of the conversation between Liz Burke, Rachel Gabriel, and Diane Glass, as moderated by longtime TLAN teacher and community member, Kelly DuMar. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length. 

Kelly DuMar: Tell us about your passion for poetry.

Liz Burke: My love of poetry began with a love of language, the musicality of it, and its potential for creating worlds.

Diane Glass: Yes, with poetry, you’re able to go to the essence of something and really get at the heart of things. 

Rachel Gabriel: Humanity has always expressed its thoughts and dreams through poetry. When I write a poem, I am making one small observation yet joining a community of voices. Poetry is also a wonderful way for me to connect words with images and words with music. 

Kelly: How did your literary friendship develop?

Liz: We met through TLAN, but we really got to know one another during the Right Livelihood Professional Training. That first weekend together, we went through an intimate process of inner discovery. And we also considered how we want to live in this world. 

Diane: I came to the group with an intention: I wanted to write a book, something beautiful for family and friends. Along the way, the primary focus of our group became learning how to write poetry. This is a safe place to bring our work. We focus on the poem, not on our feelings.

Rachel: I studied so much literature in college that I couldn’t write for a long time, but I’ve done a lot of journeying as a writer and as a teacher of writing. In TLAN, you know that if you fall on your face, no one will mock you. They will pull you up and say try again. I [feel comfortable] bringing a little silliness and playfulness to this group. 

Kelly: How does the group work? 

Liz: We meet once a month for an hour, and everyone has about twenty minutes to share their work. We have clear guidelines, but we are always responsive to one another’s needs.

Rachel: We consider whether the poet’s intention is there on the page. Instead of saying whether or not we like a poem, we discuss whether or not the poem is working. It’s energizing to engage with your colleague’s work.

Diane: We share poems through a Google folder so people can see the poem while we talk about it. We listen and receive feedback, but know the poet must make the final decision.

Liz: I like to practice experimentation with form and play. I start with a poem as a nugget and then breathe air into it to inform the poem. In our group, we investigate every word—it’s an exciting process.

Kelly: How have you grown individually and as a group?

Diane: I brought a poem about my stepson’s suicide to the group. I didn’t want to talk with anyone who was emotionally involved. Liz and Rachel opened a door for me to write more. They showed me the possibilities of something bigger.

Rachel: Intimacy develops in a small circle of friends. It’s always amazing what you learn. Diane wanted us to talk with her as a poet. We have made an investment in one another. That allowed this door to open.

Diane: Zoom didn’t get in the way of intimacy for us.

Liz: My poems have become more courageous because of this group. I bring writing about an experience that is very vulnerable, knowing this vulnerability will be held tenderly. It can be tricky [to hold this space for vulnerability] while commenting on what works and what doesn’t.

Rachel: If it hadn’t been for this “greenhouse,” if they [Liz and Diane] hadn’t been nurturing me along, I wouldn’t have been able to write this song [“Hymn for America” in response to George Floyd’s murder]. My whole city [Minneapolis], the whole country was unravelling. I could go to my poetry as a way of conversing with it all, which felt like a gift in the midst of everything. 

-Compiled by Rachel Gabriel.

Diane Glass loves reading poetry, and during a Right Livelihood Professional Training offered by TLAN founder Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Laura Packer, she discovered how much she loves writing it. RLPT’s encouragement and that of her two poetry partners, Liz and Rachel, has resulted in a poetry book released this month, The Heart Hungers for Wildness, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Diane published a memoir as well, This Need to Dance, her story of growing up with spina bifida. Diane completed the TLA certificate and considers this organization her tribe. http://www.dianeeglass.com. 

Liz Burke is a poet, interdisciplinary educator, and writing coach passionate about narrative and arts-based approaches to personal and social transformation. She works with adult students, working-class identified groups, university faculty, LGBTQIA+ communities, women living with the aftermath of sexual assault and harassment, feminist activists, and poets/writers of all kinds. She serves as the TLA Network’s Board Chair. 

Rachel Gabriel is a multi-disciplinary artist in word, image, and song. Her work as a writer and teaching artist have been honored by The Loft Literary Center where she’s shared a passion for creative writing and literature with youth and adults since 2007. She was awarded a residency at The Ragdale Foundation for her novel in-progress, and has published prose and poetry in several anthologies. In her creative work, Rachel explores topics such as spirituality, gender equality, and phenology. Her outreach and consulting work includes facilitating creative process and development workshops for intergenerational groups or private clients. She is an apprentice in book arts and bibliotherapy, and continues to develop curricula which weaves together creative expression with spiritual wellness. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband, son, and daughter. In her opinion, a perfect day includes a walk in Paris, painting by Lake Superior, and dancing in the kitchen.

Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright, and engaging workshop leader who guides new and experienced writers to aim for astonishment, reclaim their imaginations, and generate enlivening writing experiences. Her Aim for Astonishing photo-inspired process elicits profound personal awakenings, deepens connection with others, and fosters beautifully crafted writing in poetry and prose. Author of three poetry collections, Kelly is also author ofBefore You Forget— The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children. She produces the Our Voices Festival of Boston Area Women Playwrights, held at Wellesley College, now in its 13th year, and she produces the annual Boston Writing Retreat and the weeklong summer Play Lab for the International Women’s Writing Guild, where she serves on the board. Kelly founded the Farm Pond Writers Collective to guide women writers to write from their personal photos, develop their artistic voices and connect deeply with their creative lives. Kelly inspires readers of #NewThisDay – her daily photo-inspired blog – with her mindful reflections on a writing life. www.kellydumar.com

Activating Youth Voices

Cultivate Youth Arts Magazine Seeking Submissions

activating youth voices in the fight for equality, justice and change

SUBMISSION SEASON: Closes April 15, 2020

  • Poetry
  • Photography
  • Sketch
  • Short Story
  • Mixed-media
  • Spoken Word
  • Sculpture
  • Painting
  • Prose

Open to the Public-at-Large – Writers/Artists must be ages 18 years or younger

In June 2020 look for the inaugural issue of Cultivate, the youth arts magazine to be published each spring, by HopeWorks of Howard County, Maryland. Cultivate is a program of HopeWorks’ Youth Leadership Project, a service-learning program dedicated to empowering teens to challenge systems of oppression and prevent relationship violence in their community.

The Youth Leadership Project creates a space for students to grow in understanding themselves and the world. Facilitating self-care and social justice projects, youth leaders engage in frank discussions, raise their social consciousness and participate in creative projects and activism. Youth Leaders are excited to serve on the magazine’s editorial committee and to participate in the production process.

Themes for your submitted work (both visual and literary) should focus on reflections about growing up, relationships, family and friends, activism, change, social justice, empowerment, transformation, hope, self-care, or healing. The magazine will be available on-line and by mail.

“We protest because we love ourselves, and our people… Love is at the root of our resistance.” – Colin Kaepernick

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: April 15, 2020

Early submission is encouraged. Acceptance notifications will emailed by June 2020.  Click here to view the Submission Guidelines. Acceptance notifications will be emailed by June 2020. 

Cultivate youth arts magazine is a publication of HopeWorks made possible by the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County Government.

ABOUT HopeWorks

HopeWorks is Howard County Maryland’s local sexual and intimate partner violence center.  We provide direct support to survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence and human trafficking.  We also, work in community to change the culture that allows these forms of violence to continue. 

Sexual and intimate partner violence is based in power differences, not only at an individual level but also structurally in systems of power –known as oppression.  Therefore, our mission, at HopeWorks, at its core, is grounded in anti-oppression work.  

We use a social justice lens; enabling us to address and decrease the root causes of gendered violence (sexual and intimate partner violence) as well as the systems that fuel genocide, racism, transphobia, poverty, xenophobia, ableism, and more.  We support and partner with others doing anti-oppression work, efforts to achieve healthier relationships and a society free from all forms of violence.

HopeWorks envisions a world of interconnected people and communities actively working toward a society where all people are safe and valued and where everyone can reach their full potential.

Questions? Please contact HopeWorks’ Deputy Director, Vanita Leatherwood at (410) 997 -0304.

Catalyst: Inspiration, Contemplation, & Observation

From: Judith Goedeke

This poem was inspired by specific terrorist attacks, and applies equally to the ongoing, everyday, barrage of violence swirling around us.  It was inspired by the magical comfort a mother provided her child.  It was inspired by the work we are all here to do, which requires a steady hand, clear vision and a peaceful heart.  How shall we center ourselves in this turbulent new year? 

The Poem: he shouts from the dark room

. . . his mama scoops him up, rocks him

says “everything is okay, don’t worry

nothing bad can happen where Qu’ran is”

she nods toward a pile of books

a splash of yellow Curious Georges

and the thick, white one

“where Allah is, no harm can come”

she sings to him softly in Farsi

the sounds flow like sunshine

onto olive and orange trees

his eyelids flutter

©Judith Goedeke 2019

Dedicated to the memory of the 51 Muslims murdered in their mosques on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Questions, Prompts & Ideas:

I invite you to wander through the words, paying attention to places that entice or thrill or repel or otherwise jump out.  The shift may show up in your body, mind, emotions or spirit.  Linger there in tender exploration; surround your path with loving kindness.  Poems are my questions and my statements of possibility that I share in hopes you will explore your own.  Feel free to agree or take issue.  Change the words if that suits you.  And please invite yourself fully into the poem by changing any pronouns that don’t fit.

***

Are you a member of a group held in contempt by some folks? Are you a member of multiple groups held in contempt by some folks? Are you at risk simply existing in proximity of hateful people? How does this affect your body? Mind? Emotions? Spirit? Goals? Dreams? Education? Employment? Housing? Health care? Transportation? Food availability? Air and Water quality? Finances? Spirituality? World view? What are the everyday and long term affects of this on your precious life? What cumulative entrenchment, if any, do you experience?

If you are not part of a group held in contempt by some folks, what is the effect on your precious life, of living in an environment where others are vulnerable through no fault of their own? Where do you stumble?  How do you find and maintain a centered way forward?

At times, we are all the child in the poem, crying out for comfort.  Explore your moments of neediness and surround them in tender love.  Search for the bedrock cause; don’t stop until you find it.  What wholesome, truthful solutions arise?

Consider contemplation, meditation, self-care, prayer, the varied and infinite ways to cultivate a wide-open love that is both deeply personal, and is universal.  Consider taking effective actions in hopes of relieving the suffering of others.  Are you called toward inward cultivation or outreach?  Is one more important than the other?  Is it okay to do the thing you are naturally inclined toward, but not the other?  Or do you have a responsibility to do both?

My New Year’s wish is that we hold ourselves steady, rock ourselves, sing to ourselves, plant ourselves even for a moment in a place of peace.  Then may we respect all beings, bring true equality to life, and champion justice for all.

The enormous healing power of words compels Judith to write. She strives to clarify, challenge, redirect, own up to and celebrate life. And do damage control. 

Poetry’s unique spaciousness invites us to land in surprising places, come face to face with ourselves anew, and discover fresh perspectives. It connects us more deeply to ourselves, and erodes isolation. 

“Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.”   Pete Seeger

About Judith Goedeke:

Judith Goedeke

An award-winning poet and retired acupuncturist, Judith’s work appears in anthologies, literary journals and River of Silver Sky, a book of poems. She facilitates Poem as Portal Workshops that foster loving self-awareness, intentional living and compassion.

Art as Resistance

“Prakriti” by Sangeeta Kaul

Dragonfly Arts Magazine Seeking Submissions

Dragonfly arts magazine

SUBMISSION SEASON: Closes March 31, 2020

  • Poetry
  • Photography
  • Sketch
  • Short Story
  • Mixed-media
  • Spoken Word
  • Sculpture
  • Painting
  • Prose

Open to the Public-at-Large – Writers/Artists do not have to be survivors.

At HopeWorks, we use the arts in three important ways to accomplish our mission: to support survivors in their healing; as a vehicle to increase awareness; and to imagine creative solutions to bring about social change.  

Dragonfly arts magazine, published each spring, is one of our most popular arts-based projects.

Themes for your submitted work (both visual and literary) should focus on reflections about relationships, activism, oppression, love, advocacy, hope, transformative justice, trauma, racial and gender equity, intersectionality, self-care, or healing.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: March 31, 2020

Early submission is encouraged. Acceptance notifications will emailed by June 2020.  Click here to view the Submission Guidelines.

Dragonfly arts magazine is a publication of HopeWorks made possible by the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from the Howard County Government. 

ABOUT HopeWorks

HopeWorks is Howard County Maryland’s local sexual and intimate partner violence center.  We provide direct support to survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence and human trafficking.  We also, work in community to change the culture that allows these forms of violence to continue. 

Sexual and intimate partner violence is based in power differences, not only at an individual level but also structurally in systems of power –known as oppression.  Therefore, our mission, at HopeWorks, at its core, is grounded in anti-oppression work.  

We use a social justice lens; enabling us to address and decrease the root causes of gendered violence (sexual and intimate partner violence) as well as the systems that fuel genocide, racism, transphobia, poverty, xenophobia, ableism, and more.  We support and partner with others doing anti-oppression work, efforts to achieve healthier relationships and a society free from all forms of violence.

HopeWorks envisions a world of interconnected people and communities actively working toward a society where all people are safe and valued and where everyone can reach their full potential.

Questions? Please contact HopeWorks’ Deputy Director, Vanita Leatherwood at (410) 997 -0304.

TLA Network Newsletter – February 2020

Join us for the 17th annual Power of Words Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 30 – November 1, 2020. 

Get $45 off the regular conference fee – the super early bird rate is available through Friday, January 31!

Featuring U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo as conference keynoter, the conference will take place at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, in the heart of Santa Fe.

Our conference brings together writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, educators, healers, activists, health professionals, community leaders and more.

We invite your proposals for experiential, didactic, and/or performance-based sessions that focus on writing, storytelling, drama, film, songwriting, and other forms of Transformative Language Arts. 

Submission deadline is March 31.

We encourage proposals from people targeted by racism, low-income people, people with disabilities, queer-identified people, and people of transgender and/or gender non-conforming experience.  

Spotlight on the TLA Network Council: Brenda Magnetti

Empathy.  It’s a powerful experience to understand someone else’s condition from their point of view. Brenda Magnetti has built a strong industry reputation for being one of the best brand experience planning experts to amplify the role of empathy in changing buyer behavior. She spent her most recent years developing award-winning digital marketing and commerce strategies for Beltone, Glanbia Sports Nutrition, Michelin, Wrigley, J&J, Unilever and Mondelez International. As a life-long learning advocate, Brenda just finished advanced marketing strategy, analytics, and technology certification from Northwestern.  And she recently earned her Brain-Based Coaching credentials from the NeuroLeadership Institute on her path toward ICF certification and her consulting practice.  These additional expertise areas amplify Brenda’s commitment to the power of words and her focus on Right Livelihood in both corporate and non-profit settings. Brenda heads the TLA Network’s membership campaign.

The TLA Network is governed by a council, the membership of which is arrived upon annually. In council, we come together as equals, all drawing on our gifts and working with our challenges cooperatively to forward the mission of the Network. 

An Interview with Caits Meissner on Poetry, Prayer, and Social Change

Caits Meissner sat down with us to talk about her upcoming online class, “Poems as Prayers: Writing Toward a Just World.” The class begins Oct. 23. More here.

What do you see as the relationship of poetry to prayer, and prayer to social change?

There is a course to be made about religious tradition in social justice movements, but this isn’t it. I use prayer here in the loosest sense of the word, drawing on the simple idea that when we launch our wishes and hopes into the universe with earnest intention, they amplify. The object of devotion may be a higher power, but also may be nature, the universe, the commitment to reducing harm, a deeper sense of self love or humanity itself. 

The way I’m thinking about prayer in this course, as intentional wishing and visioning that extends beyond the self, is a different energy than protest, and railing against what is—a necessary strategy, but not the only one. 

I’m thinking of prayer as an impassioned call to forces beyond the human realm to support our collective betterment, to protect who is vulnerable, to uplift who is ignored, to create harmony and equity and peace and justice and environmental responsibility. To call in the gods or ancestors or universal light energy or natural intelligence to give us the strength and tools to help dream and build a better world. 

What motivated you to put together such a visionary class?

My own desperation for something different drove me forward. I have always been drawn to resistance art, and while I find that incredibly important, in this terrifying era we’ve entered, I also craved something more—hopeful may the wrong word—perhaps more fitting is visionary. The concept of emergence in social change began to stir me up. 

It was Adrienne Maree Brown’s book Emergent Strategy that really got my gears turning about a course that tied together inspiration from a wide array of sources to propel us into the possibilities for healing our society. Brown looks at biomimicry, speculative fiction, posts tarot cards on her social media—she is ideating new social justice practices from an amazing mix of movement work, divination, nature and art. 

I am certain that hidden in the natural intelligence of our bodies is a creative force more profound than what is easily accessible in the rigid and fast pace of modern society. I think it takes playing outside our go-to inspirations to draw up what has previously been untapped. I wanted to push myself, and others, to dream forward and innovate in our poetry practices, the way Brown is asking of those engaging justice work.

What can people expect to experience, learn, and write in this class?

There will not be much, if any soap-boxing or pontificating from me, as the facilitator. I am no expert, I am a fellow seeker. Rather than reading my thoughts and ideas on a subject, I see my role as cultivating process and possibility through curating readings. 

I want to encourage participants to listen to what their bodies reveal, and then act on their gut impulses, what pulls them towards creation in what I offer. I would also like to gently push participants past nerves or fear to try something new. Therefore, we’ll engage a large range of material in order to unlock new pathways in the brain. I encourage participants to arrive expecting to play, and to challenge themselves to write towards creating an image of a just world, rather than (always) against it.

Participants should come ready to journal in response to questions, write for 15 minutes based on sometimes strange or even silly-seeming prompts, to read about a 20 page packet each week of poems and essays, to write another poem (I suggest writing a draft in 15 minutes, but it’s up to the writer) and to post the work they’d like feedback on in the forum—1 or 2 short pieces weekly. 

How has prayer and social change spoken through your writing, and can you share an example?

I often use poetry as a space to work out questions and ideas about the world—as writers tend to. And though I write from a variety of perspectives, the lens I employ that most closely resembles prayer, for me, is gratitude. I’ve written tender praise poems for women in prison, and girls in jail (this one is a poem-comic). I am also at work on a series of more personal comic-based “pep talks” that explore what is good in daily life, not always connected to an anchored social justice issue, but for example, how I’ve pulled myself out of depression, or how to connect to a partner romantically when totally broke! 

I also have a silly personal example that illustrates the kind of, wait, huh, what just happened? Did I write that into existence? As a young poet in my early twenties I was depressed. On the train home after seeing my favorite poet at the time, Pulitzer Prize-winning Yusef Komunyakaa, I wrote a poem asking him where his gift of writing derives from, and calling out for the experience of pain in order to write like him. Of course, Yusef’s life story is incomparably more intense than my own has ever touched close to, but still. A few months later and I experienced a romantic break up that kicked the light out of me—that really awful, gutting kind of ending. And then I got a letter. I was going across the world to a writing conference, on a full scholarship, completely free. To study under Yusef Komunyakaa for two weeks.

Magic? Prayer? I don’t know. I am sparked by the ideas presented in quantum physics, and what are thoughts but energy? Maybe there is something here to be harnessed intentionally in our writing towards a better world. 

Anything else participants should know?

Yes! When you take a class with me, you invest materials that can be used to make poems for years. I am not exaggerating. Each week’s packet comes with approximately 10-15 optional prompts that can be revisited again and again (you’ll only write 1-2 poem drafts each week during the course). Erika Jeffers, who took this class with me live at Poets House over the summer wrote me a wonderful email about how she used the curriculum again to produce more work. With permission, I’ll share what she told me:

“On the last day of class, I think I mentioned to you that I was planning on taking a week off from New York and staying at a cozy house in CT to write and revisit the ‘Poetry as Prayer ‘ class syllabus and I did just last week! In the mornings, I tackled one week and in the afternoons, I worked through another week and I had the entire 6-week workshop experience all over again, but condensed in a week. The workshop was truly a magical experience for me; and I’m not just saying that, I wasn’t writing for a year before the class. I wouldn’t say I was stuck (maybe I was), but I wasn’t really inspired and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t good about writing specific topics, but the workshop showed me that yes, I can branch out; yes, I can be experimental; and yes, I can be a witness and write about what’s going in the world around me. Overall, I left the workshop with a new confidence! Now that I’m back, I’m working on finishing up my chapbook!… Thank you soooo much! It was such a pleasure to work with you and this amazing, life-changing class syllabus.”

  I’d say, like most experiences,  you get out of it what you put into it.

More on “Poems as Prayers: Writing Toward a Just World” here.

Why You Should Take a Class with Caits Messner

Starting Oct. 23, Caits Messner, an amazing teacher and mentor, is teaching the online class, Poems as Prayers: Writing Toward a Just World.  Caits calls herself “a DIY-spirited, poly-creative writer, artist, and cultural worker.” In this six-week class, she describes, “We’ll cast hope into the universe through ritual, spellmaking, disruption, and interactive poem-experiments— guided by a motley crew of visionary writers and thinkers. Where we are used to lamenting and pushing against the conditions of what are, participants will be encouraged, when possible, to work from an emergent lens, feeling towards what could be instead.”

Caits’ classes are legendary, and the TLA Network is so excited to have her onboard as one of our regular teachers. Here’s what others say about her classes, why they matter, and perhaps even why you might want to jump into this upcoming class:

“In this age of fury and despair over our collective well-being and fate, Caits class provides poets with the tools of hope. She conjures this hope with a variety of exercises, diverse selections of contemporary poems, workable prompts, and a few pointers toward a spiritual and ecological practice. I have never taken a poetry workshop in which I was so productive. I’d call her class inspirational.” — Susan Chute

“Caits gives and gives and gives to this workshop. Our class created & practiced magic through interpersonal care and consideration for the minute. Plus it was really fun.” — Parisa Yekalamlari “

The workshop was truly a magical experience for me; and I’m not just saying that, I wasn’t writing for a year before the class. I wouldn’t say I was stuck (maybe I was), but I wasn’t really inspired and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t good about writing specific topics, but the workshop showed me that yes, I can branch out; yes, I can be experimental; and yes, I can be a witness and write about what’s going in the world around me. Overall, I left the workshop with a new confidence! It was such a pleasure to work with you and this amazing, life-changing class syllabus.” — Erika Jeffers

“Thank you again for such a magical and transformative workshop. Your method of teaching and approach to generation is so beautiful and effective in a way I haven’t experienced it before, and I’m so thankful for it, and you!” — Jonina Diele

More information on the class is here.

Enough! — By Usha Akella: A Highlight from the Power of Words Conference

At the Power of Words conference, keynote presenter Usha Akella gave such a stunning and stirring talk on how she started Matwaala, the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the U.S., that the packed room of those of us listening jumped to our feet to give her  long standing ovation. We then asked her to share a poem of her own, and this is what she read, leading us to jump to our feet in applause again. Here is a link to the beautiful and inspiring Matwaala site.

Enough

People let us say it.

 

Bring back our caged children to a field of sunflowers,

open our land to people as we would our palms

to catch a raindrop,

bring back Aylan in blue shorts

washed up as a fish, snuggled in sand,

let us not say again: he did not make it,

let children not have to tell their stories.

 

Let us bring back Gulsoma, seven years old,

oil her back scarred like a cluster of sardines,

let us hear her laughter before it was married,

let Malala not be shot in the head, let Karla

not have to say 43, 200 raped.

 

And bring back Asifa Bano’s rosy cheeks and chirping,

let her bring back goats bare-footed,

and roast warm chestnuts on a humble fire,

let her eight-year old legs not be parted brutally for

things other than what children do,

and bring back all the murdered girl infants

still as stone swaddled in earth.

 

And the police/traffickers/abductors/

mothers/fathers/sisters/brothers

who kill/sell/abuse/rape/shoot their own,

let us hang them as rotting fruit from trees.

 

And people, we who know too much with our tentacles of knowing

like octopuses with many eyes,

how much of knowing do we need,

before we say it?

Usha Akella has authored four books of poetry, one chapbook, and scripted and produced one musical drama. She earned an MSt. In Creative Writing at Cambridge University, UK. She read with a group of eminent South Asian Diaspora poets at the House of Lords in June 2016. Her work has been included in the Harper Collins Anthology of Indian English Poets. Her most recent book, The Waiting, is published by Sahitya Akademi, India’s highest literary authority. She was selected as a Cultural Ambassador for the City of Austin for 2015 & 2019. She has been published in numerous Literary journals, and has been invited to prestigious international poetry festivals in Slovakia, Nicaragua, Macedonia, Colombia, Slovenia, India etc. She is the founder of ‘Matwaala,’ the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the US.

Truth to Power: Poetry for Our Times with Poets Laureate

After serving as the Kansas Poet Laureate for four years, writer and TLA founder Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg decided to draw on all the new friendships she made with other state poets laureate to develop a new self-paced class: “Truth to Power: Poetry for Our Times With Poets Laureate.”

The result is a wondrous self-paced class that allows you to write on your own time at your own pace in concert with a rich diversity of writing prompts (developed by poets laureate around the country just for us!) and powerful stories on how poetry is instrumental to community. The class also includes inspiring essays and videos on the craft and passion of writing powerful poetry about our lives and times, and written discussions on the history and possibilities of poetry that speaks to social transformation.

Each the 12 units in the class highlights both state and national poet laureate past or present, and a historic poet dedicated to changing the world, including a writing prompt and writing craft or writing life discussion from that poet, some of the poets laureate’s poems with writing prompts, a discussion of a poet from the past or present who crafts poetry for social transformation, and exciting links to interviews, essays, and videos. All in all, you’ll get to know the work, writing, and lives of 37 American poets.

Poets!

Walt Whitman, W. S. Merwin, Marilyn L. Taylor, Emily Dickinson, Dick Allen, William Stafford, Sue Brennan Walker, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, William Trowbridge, Robert Penn Warren, Muriel Rukeyser, Mark Strand, Grace Paley, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Adrienne Rich, Joyce Brinkman, Juan Felipe, Herrera, Denise Low, Wendell Berry, Rita Dove, David Romtvedt, Sharon Olds, Luci Tapahonso, Kimberly Blaeser, Yusef Komunyakaa, Joy Harjo, Marjory Wentworth, Audre Lorde, Elizabeth Woody, Natasha Trethewey, Li-Young Lee, JoAnn Balingit, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Naomi Shahib Nye, Tracy K. Smith, and Richard Blanco. (Photo: from left, Audre Lorde, Meridel Le Sueur, and Adrienne Rich.)

This is a perfect class for those with any amount of experience writing poetry, from those who are interested in learning more and might be a bit nervous about it, to writers with years of experience who want to generate new work and brush up on elements of craft and be exposed to new contemporary writers, and how writing can be a positive force for change.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, has created this class through study, experience, and in conversations with over a dozen state poets laureate (many of whom shared their best handouts and writing prompts). Caryn is the author of two dozen books, including the recent Miriam’s Well, a novel; Following the Curve, poetry; and Everyday Magic, a collection of beloved blog posts and personal essays. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College , Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, particularly for people living with serious illness and their caregivers. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com