Healing, One Letter at a Time: A guest post by TLAF Certificate student Sharon Bippus

Editor’s note: Sharon is a student in the Transformative Language Arts Foundations Certificate program. This blog post is one of five reflection posts she will be submitting as part of the certificate requirements.

I have always loved children’s literature – the illustrations, the simplicity of the language, the uplifting stories. So imagine my surprise when I was triggered by a picture book as I was browsing in a bookstore in my hometown of Houston, Texas in the fall of 2018. I was still carrying that anger when I sat down at a restaurant a short time later. As I waited for my food, I wrote the following on Facebook:

I went to Barnes and Noble this afternoon, and I saw a new children’s picture book called H is for Harvey. It contains sentences such as “H is for hurricane blah, blah, blah” and “H is for hope blah, blah, blah.” The very last sentence is “H is for happy.” Apparently, the home of the author of this book didn’t flood and has her happy, normal life back. How nice! So I’m going to write my own Hurricane Harvey book. It’s called P is for Post-Traumatic Stress. I was playing with that idea as I went across the street to have linner (too late for lunch, too early for dinner) at La Madeleine. When the cashier gave me the “P” spoon, I knew it was a sign! I’ll be posting the story in the comments below…

While not appropriate for a children’s book, what followed was an outpouring of my grief, anger, and confusion.

  • P is for panic, what you feel when you know for certain that your house is going to flood.
  • P is for patience, something that you lose.
  • P is for privacy, something else that you lose.
  • P is for pain, something that you feel a lot of.
  • P is for psychiatric, the kind of help you need now.
  • P is for puppy, like the one who lives in #187 and was able to enter #190 and pee on the floor because we no longer have any walls dividing us.
  • P is for paper plates, what you have to use because all of your dishes are packed away.
  • P is for pessimism because it’s been over a year and your house still hasn’t been repaired.
  • P is for property value, something that has gone down about 35%.
  • P is for plummet, what happens to your energy level.
  • P is for pregnant because one of my former students had a baby since Harvey. He and his wife actually produced a living, breathing human being faster than my house could be repaired.
  • P is for pray, the only thing I can do at this point.

Now I am writing the sequel to this story. It is mid-August of 2022, and the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey is approaching. I’ve been thinking about how to commemorate this event that turned my life upside down on August 29, 2017, and I realize that now I can find comfort in the letter “C.” The book I would write today is called C is for Complex PTSD.

While there are similarities, Complex PTSD differs from PTSD. A simple definition is that Complex PTSD refers to an accumulation of traumatic events that usually occurs in childhood whereas PTSD is the result of a single event. What I didn’t understand at the time is that I was reliving the emotional trauma of my childhood through the events that surrounded Hurricane Harvey.

With this knowledge, I am writing a new story:

  • C is for clarity, what I have gained since learning about Complex PTSD.
  • C is for cathartic, the releasing of grief through the infinite number of tears I have cried.
  • C is for compassion, what I need to give to my inner child.
  • C is for curiosity, the ability to stay open and continue learning.
  • C is for consistently, the way I need to show up for myself day after day.
  • C is for my creative practice, one of the ways that I heal.
  • C is for change, what I am doing with my life and my outlook.
  • C is for connection, the healing relationships I forge with people, nature, and myself.
  • C is for care, specifically self-care, actively taking steps that contribute to my well-being.
  • C is for calm, what happens after the storm passes.
  • C is for the courage to heal myself.
  • C is for the commitment to live my best life.

C is also for closure which I will commence by returning to the letter “P.” This particular “P” was a gift from a friend who added it to my Facebook post back in 2018:

P is for permission, permission to own my feelings and permission to express myself.

Sharon Bippus, PhD, is an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor who finds inspiration in the intersection of creativity, mystery, and synchronicity. As an undergraduate, she was awarded two scholarships to study in Germany which fueled her desire to learn more about the diverse world we live in. Since that time, she has taught English in Slovakia and China and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Western Russia. She currently teaches ESOL at a community college in the suburbs of Houston, Texas where she works with students from all over the world. In her free time, she enjoys mixed media, collage, and photography and has received training in trauma-informed expressive arts and nature-based therapeutic practices. She is a SoulCollage® facilitator, a Veriditas-trained labyrinth facilitator, and a student in the Haden Institute’s Dream Work Program.

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What Some of Our Teachers are Reading Now…

Following up on last month’s post about what our staff and board members have been reading, we asked some of the writers, editors, poets, and facilitators who teach for the TLA Network what they are currently reading, and why. We thought you might enjoy getting more of a glimpse into our teachers’ worlds – see their selections, listed below.

We would love to hear what YOU have been reading – share your latest favorite reads with us, and we might just feature you and your favorite book(s) in an upcoming newsletter, or as part of a Network book club! We would love to hear from you!

Jennifer Browdy, PhD – professor, editor, community organizer & group facilitator.

LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven, Chris Bache.
The author is a distinguished professor emeritus of world religions, who spent 20 years researching the nature of reality and metaphysics by taking himself on more than 70 high-dose, carefully set and monitored LSD explorations, with fascinating results.

The Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science & Spirituality, by Paul Levy.
Levy has done an outstanding job of bringing the insights of quantum theory, Jungian depth psychology and mystical spiritual traditions like the Kabbalah to bear on foundational questions of reality and human consciousness.

The Radiant Heart of the Cosmos: Compassion Teachings for Our Time, by Penny Gill.
Gill, a retired professor of political science and longtime dean of the college at Mt. Holyoke College, unexpectedly began to channel the voices of two Tibetan deities, Manjushri and Kwan Yin, who taught her about the “tsunami of Spirit” that is accelerating the pace of change on Earth at this time, and how we can learn to keep our psychic balance and ride with it, rather than getting swept up in fear and resistance. This book, written in three voices, tells Gill’s personal journey as well as relating the conversations she’s had with Manjushri and Kwan Yin. 

Lisa Chu, M.D. – multidisciplinary artist, illuminator, and community catalyst.

The Apology by V (formerly Eve Ensler).
The concept and content of this volume — an imagined apology written to the author in the voice of her long-dead father — are a healing salve to those among us who are still searching for the roots of the harmful, invasive, or violent behaviors of the ones who proclaimed to love us. V’s cleansing work speaks to the heart of anyone who has spent time inquiring into, deconstructing, and reconstructing internal narratives in an attempt to liberate from the invisible yet unmistakable tendrils of these violent inheritances.  I take this book in small sips, returning to pick it up again after walking with it in my belly for awhile.

Sara Berman’s Closet by Maira Kalman.
This is a short illustrated volume that I didn’t expect to have such an impact on me. At first I flipped quickly through it, but as I neared the end I realized there was a twist, an unexpected turn inside me that planted a seed for reimagining a definition of a well-lived life. Everything by Maira Kalman astonishes and delights me, but this was an added surprise and life lesson inspired by the story of her mother’s closet.

Remarkable Diaries: The World’s Greatest Diaries, Journals, Notebooks, & Letters by Kate Williams.
This one sits on my art desk and reminds me of the long lineage of thinkers – artists, explorers, writers, inventors – whose notebook practices have been reproduced as images with historical context here. I feel like I am in the company of my people whenever I leaf through these pages. I feel grateful for the existence of these notebooks, their preservation, and the fact of the existence of the minds and hands which made them. To me these are as much a product of their lives as any final works published. They are each a piece of multidimensional evidence of the uniqueness of creative process and the shared medium of the notebook across centuries of human existence.

Kimberly Lee – Writer, Editor, Workshop Facilitator.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.
This book’s  compelling premise was hard to resist: Four young siblings visit a woman who can supposedly predict the exact date of a person’s death, and as the characters move into and through adulthood, we learn how this knowledge affects their choices and behavior in all aspects of their lives. 

Goddesses of Self-Care: 30 Divine Feminine Archetypes To Guide You, by Stephanie Anderson Ladd.
This nourishing workbook offers a wealth of information on a wide variety of feminine archetypes from cultures around the world, inviting readers to harness the wisdom and ways of these entities to craft a self-care strategy through reflection, journaling, art making, and other activities. 

Infinitum by Tim Fielder.
A gorgeous graphic novel that begins in ancient Africa, then moves through history to the present and beyond, spanning the globe as the main character, Aja Oba, seeks to destroy the curse that binds him while finding love and purpose. 

Robbyn Layne McGill – writer, editor & producer.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Douglas Carlton Abrams, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I’m actually listening to the audio version of this book while I do my daily chores – a simple practice for elevating the mundane into a joyful experience. Two friends, who also happen to be two of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders, come together for a weeklong event to share their thoughts on living with joy, even in the face of adversity. In the audio version, two actors read the parts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond, as the writer weaves his insights around them. It’s a thought-provoking, inspiring, entertaining, and uplifting read (or listen). 

Falling in Honey, by Jennifer Barclay.
Inspiring for aspiring memoir writers, and anyone who loves the Greek islands. This book gets some mixed reviews as far as the quality of writing goes, but I am still putting it here for two reasons. One, I’m a huge fan of memoirs about travel and love, and this one is an entertaining story about the British author’s experience of discovering and moving to a tiny Greek island in the Dodecanese (one that I just visited, and also fell in love with), with a twist. 

And two, you can learn a lot from the way other memoirists craft their stories – good, bad, and in-between. This was only Barclay’s second book, and she continues to write, improve, and follow her creative heart, so I find that very inspiring.

Storycraft, by Jack Hart.
This book brings readers into the process of developing nonfiction narratives by revealing the stories behind the stories. Hart shares tips, anecdotes, and recommendations he forged during his decades-long career in journalism, with examples that draw from magazine essays, book-length nonfiction narratives, documentaries, and radio programs. A great resource but also a fascinating, fun read. It also greatly improved my ability to write blogs, newsletters, and articles for my clients.

Angie Ebba – Writer, Activist, and Performance Artist.

Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlich.
This collection of poetry looks at the author’s mental health and her relationship to the medications she takes. I love the raw honesty and vulnerability in many of the poems in this book, and the way that we see the struggles and triumphs that can come with learning how to navigate mental illness.

The Boy With a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund.
I loved how this novel tackled the question of what it means to be different, the cost of hiding ourselves, and the courage it takes to show who we are, even when people don’t like it. This book has great representation with a variety of LGBTQIA main characters. Despite the book being full of surreal elements, I found myself completely believing them, and looking for the birds that may be living in the chests of others.

Marianela Medrano – Psychotherapist, Writer, and Poet.

What the Dead Want Me To Know, by E. Janet Aalfs 
These poems have a life of their own and speak of justice and inclusivity while whistle-blowing the rich old boys who “behind our backs launder money/fumbling hands in drawers the same old way….”  In this collection, lyricism meets reality, crudeness, and injustice with the mastery of great poetry. Aalfs knows that “not looking away” is the “given prize.” 

She understands the relationship between body and mind as a continuum. Her white body crosses a black one, breathing in the same lines, knowing that “budding bruises” come up from the breathing ground… healing. She prays and revises her prayer, asking for calm, giving it to us on each line that breathes now and forever.

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer, by Jamie Figueroa. 
Jamie Figueroa gets us into the world of two siblings rooting meaning and a sense of self in this brilliant and well-plotted novel. They meet at the intersection of humor, sorrow, and loss that crosses generations. One can say it is a novel that puts generational trauma into perspective.

Riham Adly – Writer and Editor 

Let Our Bodies Be Returned to Us, by Lynn Mundell.
The collection explores those tender moments in the lives of women and young girls who could not embrace or explore their sexuality. They need to fit but they could not belong. Coming from a culture where women are treated as lesser beings,  I felt intrigued when I realized women struggled everywhere. 

One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large by Chris La Tray.
This is one of those books that I return to over and over as a writer. It is both touchstone and inspiration, reminding me of the power and pleasure of staying curious and writing down what I notice. 

The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker by Susan Wittig Albert.
A delicious summer read where the characters feel so real I could pop next door for some lemonade and a chat, the setting and history is well researched and accessible and the mystery stays a mystery until the end. I’ve never been disappointed by anything, fiction or nonfiction, that this author writes and she is prolific!

Tracie Nichols – Facilitator, Copyeditor, and Poet. 

One-Sentence Journal: Short Poems and Essays from the World at Large by Chris La Tray.
This is one of those books that I return to over and over as a writer. It is both touchstone and inspiration, reminding me of the power and pleasure of staying curious and writing down what I notice. 

The Darling Dahlias and the Red Hot Poker by Susan Wittig Albert.
A delicious summer read where the characters feel so real I could pop next door for some lemonade and a chat, the setting and history is well researched and accessible and the mystery stays a mystery until the end. I’ve never been disappointed by anything, fiction or nonfiction, that this author writes and she is prolific!

Healing The World With Words: Pádraig Ó Tuama

The power of words to wound is also a measure of the power of words to heal. – Pádraig Ó Tuama. 

Irish poet, author, theologian, and activist Pádraig Ó Tuama has published six collections of work over the years. His most recent, Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World, was released this past October. Ó Tuama is also the host of a podcast, Poetry Unbound With On Being. The solo podcast explores the meanings, themes, and intricacies of poems written by his peers in beautiful fifteen-minute recordings that let his audience fall deep into the words of these brilliant artists. 

In Poetry Unboand’s May 30th, 2022 episode, Ó Tuama discusses poet Andy Jackson’s, The Changing Room, a delicate and alluring eight-stanza prose poem that discusses the themes of self-consciousness. Ó Tuama eloquently unpacks the verses during the thirteen-minute listen. He explains, “It’s a poem that pays attention to an experience of one [body], but really that’s a sleight of hand… Jackson is looking at the attention that [his body] gets and is refocusing it, extending it wider, looking at the deeper question, what does it mean for any of us to be in a body?

Ó Tuama’s work expands beyond the written page and into his community.  From 2014 to 2019, Ó Tuama led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation group. During his tenure, he wrote Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, a prayer book which draws on the organization’s spiritual practices. Ó Tuama formulated the collection based on decades of work addressing the personal and political conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and other global conflicts.

Under Ó Tuama’s leadership, the Corrymeela Community helped develop school and group curricula to discuss narrative practices, art and conflict, and interfaith dialogue, and his work advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights had impact throughout Ireland and beyond.

A beautiful example of Ó Tuama’s ability to see and understand a wide and wise variety of perspectives is in his 2020 poem, How To Belong Be Alone.

It all begins with knowing

nothing lasts forever,

so you might as well start packing now.

In the meantime,

practice being alive.

There will be a party

where you’ll feel like

nobody’s paying you attention.

And there will be a party

where attention’s all you’ll get.

What you need to do

is to remember

to talk to yourself

between these parties.

And,

again,

there will be a day,

— a decade —

where you won’t

fit in with your body

even though you’re in

the only body you’re in.

You need to control

your habit of forgetting

to breathe.

Remember when you were younger

and you practiced kissing on your arm?

You were on to something then.

Sometimes harm knows its own healing

Comfort knows its own intelligence.

Kindness too.

It needs no reason.

There is a you

telling you another story of you.

Listen to her.

Where do you feel

anxiety in your body?

The chest? The fist? The dream before waking?

The head that feels like it’s at the top of the swing

or the clutch of gut like falling

& falling & falling and falling

It knows something: you’re dying.

Try to stay alive.

For now, touch yourself.

I’m serious.

Touch your

self.

Take your hand

and place your hand

some place

upon your body.

And listen

to the community of madness

that

you are.

You are

such an

interesting conversation.

You belong

here.

Ó Tuama articulates the sensation of anxiety so effortlessly, in a way that allows readers not only to identify this feeling but also experience what this character, whether us, Ó Tuama, or someone else, is feeling as well. The line, “Sometimes harm knows its own healing” encapsulates this fascinating idea of using our perceived weaknesses as new strengths – the idea of taking a part of ourselves that we avoid focusing on, and finding its strength, finding its power and durability, and ultimately, its vigor. 

Pádraig Ó Tuama will be featured as one of three keynote speakers at the TLA Network’s upcoming Power of Words Conference, titled, Hope is a Discipline. The conference will be held online from October 13-16, 2022. Along with Camille T. Dungy and Katherine Adams, Ó Tuama will be speaking and presenting on the theme of hope being a discipline. We welcome you to join us!

Gabe Seplow is a Philadelphia native who is studying Contemporary Theatre at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee. He went to high school at AIM Academy in Conshohocken, PA, where he was a founding member of the Student Diversity Leadership group, traveling the country to different conferences to study and learn to make school a more diverse and equitable place. Gabe has written and directed plays performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival addressing social justice, diversity, and equity issues, with the goal of shining a light on gun violence, racial biases, and white privilege. He is currently an Intern for the TLA Network, doing research, assisting with social media, and helping with conference programming.

Meet the Keynote: Pádraig Ó Tuama

“Putting to work poetry and gospel, side by side with story and Celtic spirituality, Ó Tuama explores ideas of shelter along life’s journey, opening up gentle ways of living well in a troubled world. The reader can’t help but be drawn in, slip-sliding into the harbor of the author’s soulful words.” —Chicago Tribune

“Probably the best public speaker I know.” —William Crawley, BBC

The TLA Network is pleased to include noted Irish Poet Pádraig Ó Tuama as one of three keynotes at the upcoming TLA Network’s 2022 Power of Words Conference. The conference also features keynotes poet and writer Camille Dungy, and Kathleen Adams, founder of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Center for Journal Therapy. The conference will be online October 13-16 next fall, and the super early bird registration fee (20% off the regular price) is available now through December 31, 2021

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a theologian, conflict resolution mediator, and the author of four volumes of poetry, Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community (2017), In the Shelter (2015), Sorry for your Troubles (2013), and Readings from the Books of Exile (2012), which was longlisted for the 2013 Polari First Book Prize.

For Ó Tuama, religion, conflict, power, and poetry all circle around language, that original sacrament. Working fluently on the page and in public, Ó Tuama is a compelling poet, teacher, and group worker, and a profoundly engaging public speaker. He has worked with groups to explore story, conflict, their relationship with religion and argument, and violence. Using poetry, group discussion and lectures, his work is marked both by lyricism and pragmatism, and includes a practice of evoking stories and participation from attendees at his always-popular lectures, retreats, and events.

Ó Tuama has been a featured guest on On Being with Krista Tippett twice, and is a regular broadcaster on radio on topics such as Poetry, Religion in the public square, Loneliness, Conflict and Faith, LGBT inclusion, the dangers of so-called Reparative Therapy, and the value of the Arts in public life. In 2011, with Paul Doran, Pádraig co-founded the storytelling event Tenx9 where nine people have up to ten minutes each to tell a true story from their lives. From 2014-2019, Pádraig led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Currently, Pádraig guides the weekly podcast Poetry Unbound through NPR’s On Being, which dives and immerses the listener into one poem every week

His poetry collection Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community draws on the spiritual practices of Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community Corrymela—of which Ó Tuama was a leader from 2014-2019. Described by Canterbury’s Poetry Laureate Patience Agbabi as “compassionate, contemporary and formally innovative,” this prayer book was structured over 31 days, offering a daily Bible reading with accompanying prayer. His book In the Shelter interweaves everyday stories with narrative theology, gospel reflections with mindfulness and Celtic spirituality with poetry, ultimately revealing the transformational power of welcome. Network Magazine praised it as being remindful of Augustine’s Confessions and Newman’s Apologia: “It comes from the heart, it recognizes the hurts and the triumphs, and it encourages us to say ‘hello’ to new things.” Sorry for Your Troubles, arose out of a decade of O’Tuama’s experiences hearing stories of people who have lived through personal and political conflict in Nothern Ireland, the Middle East, and other places of conflict. One poem, ‘Shaking hands’ was written when Padraig witnessed the historic handshake between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, who has since used the poem publicly. His first book Readings from the Books of Exile interweaves parable, poetry, art, activism and philosophy into an original and striking expression of faith.

His poems have been published at Poetry Ireland Review, Academy of American Poets, Post Road, Cream City Review, Holden Village Voice, Proximity Magazine, On Being, Gutter, America, and Seminary Ridge Review.

Pádraig Ó Tuama holds a BA Div validated by the Pontifical College of Maynooth, an MTh from Queen’s University Belfast and is currently engaged in a PhD in Theology through Creative Practice at the University of Glasgow exploring poetry, Irishness and religion.

Registration is now open for the 2022 Power of Words conference, which will be held online from October 13-16, 2022.
On sale now through December 31, save 20% off the 2022 conference fee!
 

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.