Spotlight on the Keynote: Lyla June Johnston

Lyla June Johnston is an Indigenous public speaker, artist, scholar and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages from Taos, New Mexico. 

Her personal mission is to grow closer to Creator by learning how to love deeper and to support and empower indigenous youth. Her messages focus on Indigenous rights, supporting youth, traditional land stewardship practices and healing inter-generational and inter-cultural trauma. 

Lyla June blends undergraduate studies in human ecology at Stanford University, graduate work in Native American Pedagogy at the University of New Mexico, and the indigenous worldview she grew up with to inform her perspectives and solutions. Her internationally acclaimed presentations are conveyed through the medium of poetry, music and/or speech. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in Indigenous Studies with a focus on Indigenous Food Systems Revitalization.

Along with U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, poets Caits Meissner and Javier ZamoraLyla June will keynote the TLA Network’s Power of Words Conference, to be held online October 28-31, 2021. 

Spotlight on the Keynote: Javier Zamora

Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States in 1999 when he was nine—traveling unaccompanied 4,000 miles, across multiple borders, from El Salvador to the US to be reunited with his parents. Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), his first poetry collection, explores how immigration and civil war have impacted his life and family. This collection won the 2018 North California Book Award, the 2018 Firecracker Award, and was a finalist for the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He is also the author of the chapbook Nueve Años Inmigrantes/Nine Immigrant Years, which won the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts contest. 

In a 2014 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts Works Blog, Zamora states, “I think in the United States we forget that writing and carrying that banner of ‘being a poet’ is tied into a long history of people that have literally risked [their lives] and died to write those words.” 

After selecting Javier as winner of the 2017 Narrative Prize, co-founder and editor Tom Jenks said: “In sinuous plainsong that evokes the combined strengths, the bright celebrations, and the dark sorrows of two Americas sharing and transcending borders, Javier Zamora’s verse affirms human commonality and aspiration.”

Zamora holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied and taught in June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program and earned an MFA from New York University. His poems have been featured in Granta, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New York Times, and many others. Zamora has received many honors, including a 2015 NEA fellowship, the 2016 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, and the 2017 Narrative Prize. In 2016, Barnes & Noble granted the Undocupoets, of which he’s a founding member, the Writer for Writers Award for working to promote undocumented or previously undocumented writers. Most recently he was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, where he was working on his memoir and second collection of poems. He lives in Harlem, NY.

Along with U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, spoken word artist Lyla June, and poet Caits MeissnerJavier Zamora will keynote the TLA Network’s Power of Words Conference, to be held online October 28-31, 2021. 

In Gratitude for Martin Swinger’s Life and Music, by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Martin Swinger, singer-songwriter

Martin Swinger, a virtuoso singer and songwriter, died suddenly in early July, leaving behind his husband (and partner of 35 years) Brian and many broken hearts in his Asbury Park, N.J. home community, and prior to that, central Maine, where he was a mainstay of the music scene for years.

But when I think of Martin, I see him at my kitchen table, serenading the then-coordinator of the TLAN, Deb Hensley, volunteers Nancy Hubble and Laura Ramberg, and me as we stuffed folders for the 2014 Power of Words conference.

He was like this: always bringing joy, humor, and the power of music to wherever he landed. He was gifted at helping in multiple other ways too: for the conference, he coordinator participant transportation, helped Deb with many pieces of the conference coordination, and generally brought a sense of peace and homecoming to all of us.

Martin Swinger keeping the TLA Network volunteers company as they prepared for the 2014 Power of Words Conference.

Then again, Martin knew how vital hospitality and art are to this world. He grew up gay in the South, falling in love with music and books of all kinds. In recent years, he went on to be quite decorated as a songwriter, winning many notable big-time contests and performing across the country, even to the delight of the late Pete Seeger and very-much alive Vance Gilbert and John Waters. His seven CDs won lots of well-deserved awards, including from American Song Competition, SolarFest, Rosegarden Coffeehouse and more. Audiences have adored him for decades for his warm and vibrant voice and eclectic blend of Americana, swing and jazz, traditional music, show tune, Klezmer music, and improvisation. Deb and Martin sang together like angels from an enchanted land.

Deb says of Martin: Martin was a true prince, a friend to me and to so many others who knew and loved him. He had a heart the size of Mars and talent to match. Frost says, “Nothing gold can stay.” But Martin’s songs will stay. Oh yes they will. And so will his love. 

His generosity extended in other ways: when one of our keynote performers for the conference didn’t show up, Martin graciously volunteered to perform on the spot and for free (although we did extend to him a small stipend anyway). When he performed, he lifted a full house of conference goers, who had been waiting a while for the keynote, to their feet with original songs such as “Betty Boop and Buddha,” “Consider the Oyster,” and my favorite, “Little Plastic Part.” That song, about how breaking a tiny part of a vacuum that “makes the whole thing work” speaks to having a little part of our heart broken so that it doesn’t work anymore.

I can’t help thinking about how Martin himself was a little vital part with a big impact himself. 

Find more about Martin here: https://martinswinger.com/

With great gratitude and appreciation for the life of Martin Swinger, singer-songwriter.

Spotlight on the Board: Empowerment Coach Jade Eby

Writing coach, community builder and author Jade Eby is a TLAN Board member, and the chair of the 2021 Power of Words Conference Committee. We were excited to sit down with Jade to talk about her work as a creative empowerment advocate, her creative community, and what she hopes to bring to the TLA Network.

You call yourself a creative empowerment advocate, can you tell us a little more about what that means?

Yes! Ever since I was a little girl, creativity has been an instrumental part of my life. I’ve used creativity as part of my trauma recovery journey, and I’ve used creativity to help hundreds of other individuals find their voices and tell their stories.

I strongly believe that when a person can get in touch with their creative side and then lean into it — they are able to fully step into an empowered state of being. I feel like that’s my life’s purpose, actually. To help others realize the inherent power and creativity they already have inside of them. I empower individuals to become empowered.

This is the main reason I created my digital community.

Can you talk about your community a little more? What role does it play? Who is it for?

I like to say that my Creative Empowerment Community is really a sanctuary for creatives. It’s a small but mighty community that encourages, supports, and empowers creatives to create. But what’s really amazing about it is that we get to come together as our authentic and whole selves. Members come from many walks of life, but we share a common passion of being creative.

There are many wonderful online communities out there to learn how to be creative, but I haven’t found many communities that embrace the actual living as a creative. The trials and tribulations that come with that. There’s more to living a creative life than just creating and that’s really where the benefit of this community comes in.

We come together as a family and work through the highs and lows of this creative life we’re living, as a community. It’s really beautiful! And it fits in with my work at TLA network so well.

Mock-up description of Jade Eby’s Creative Empowerment Community .

How does supporting the TLA Network connect to the work you are doing?

What drew me to the TLA Network to begin with was that same sense of community and connection that I felt was missing from my life. When I understood the mission and goal of the TLA Network, I knew I wanted to be a part of the organization on a deeper level because the work is so important. Connecting creativity to our social justice activism and making change is one of the most beautiful ways to use the gifts we’ve been given.

When I was asked to chair the conference for the 2021 Power of Words Conference, I was elated because it puts everything I stand for to work!

How amazing to be able to help spearhead a conference where we lift up diverse voices and stories. How amazing to be able to show other creatives that we can build a safe and supportive community that will honor what everyone has to say. Being part of this conference is another form of empowerment to me, and as you know, I’m all about empowerment!

Jade Eby has dedicated her career to empowering others to find their voice. As a creative empowerment advocate, Jade specializes in expressive writing + journaling, writing fiction, and creative writing as a healing modality. She is certified in trauma recovery coaching, group facilitation, and workshops for journaling. She earned her B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. You can find more information about her and her programs at www.jadeeby.com

Spotlight on the Volunteer: Fiber Artist and Poet Cindy Rinne

As part of our Spotlight series, we have been focusing on some of the transformative artists who make up the TLA Network.

This month, we asked TLAN member and volunteer Cindy Rinne to share some about her work as a poet and an artist, and about her connection to the transformative language arts.

TLA Network: It’s wonderful to get to learn more about your work. Tell us about your process, and how you combine fiber arts, poetry and performance.

CR: I am an ecofeminist artist creating mixed-media fiber works as process art – these are collages layering fabrics from around the world to tell stories. There is not always a plan when I begin.

I work in collaboration with the materials. Sometimes text from my poetry comes alongside the imagery. Nature is the inspiration in both animal, tree, and plant voices. People may appear. I work on several projects at once to allow ideas to percolate.

In my work, textiles hang like tapestries to form a sculpture or are quilted. Sculptures explore dimension on the body and are a narrative from my poems or a play. The wearable fabric sculptures are also meant to come alive in performance art. Body holding space in movement, pattern, and sound.

TLA Network: You are fairly new to this community – how did you happen to find the TLA Network?

CR: I like to check out the residencies and conferences in writing magazines. The TLA Network’s 2019 Power of Word conference, in Scottsdale, AZ caught my eye. Not too far away and at a retreat center sounded great. Annually, I attend a huge writers conference and liked the idea of a more intimate, creative event – no huge book fairs or thousands of people.

The POW conference…was a place for talks, experiential workshops, storytelling, ecological and social justice, and spirituality to expand my practice. ~ Cindy Rinne

The POW conference description was a mix of who I am as a fiber artist, poet, and performance artist. Here was a place for talks, experiential workshops, storytelling, ecological and social justice, and spirituality to expand my practice. While attending, I was able to have early morning discussions and meals with the workshop leaders and some presenters. I could walk the labyrinth. This was a safe place to try new, creative things with other attendees.

TLA Network: You’ve written two chapbooks of poetry while participating in the TLAN conference and a Caits Meissner class for the Network – what in particular inspired you to create these works?

CR: My latest chapbook, Knife Me Split Memories (Cholla Needles Press), contains poems about my amazing Power of Words conference roommate, actor and playwright Valerie David – I describe her as a “three-time cancer survivor [who] has pelican bones and feathers of broken glass who sings a water spirit song.”

During the pandemic, I decided to take the TLAN workshop “& They Call Us Crazy” by Caits Meissner. The concept of the outsider appealed to me. A class combining art, writing, and social justice was a unique offering. I also liked that she creates ‘zines and thinks outside the box with her own work. Caits brought enthusiasm and great energy to the class as she presented us with artists and writers both known and unknown to me. She gave several prompts to choose from. The online class was easy to navigate, allowing me to see the richness in what other students created from the same prompts. I tried various poetic forms including erasure, canto, and collage.

I wrote silence between drumbeats (Four Feathers Press & Written by Veterans), as part of Caits’ class. In the process of writing, sometimes I combined art and poetry. The social justice poems and cover fiber art for this book were birthed in that class. “I alone / tread the red circle.” 

Cover artwork from silence between drumbeats, by Cindy Rinne.

Both the in-person POW conference and the online TLAN class expanded who I am and how I impact the world for social / ecological justice. I am now volunteering as part of the Power of Words conference committee team.

TLA Network: What are your hopes for the 2021 Power of Words conference?

CR: As we tread the new world of a virtual conference, my goal is to create a container where others stretch their wings. The presenters are all boundary pushers who will help me see the world through a new lens as I take my creative practice to new heights as a part of community.

Cindy is a San Bernardino artist and poet who has created fine art for over 40 years. She participated in “Lydia Takeshita Legacy Exhibit Series: 3” at LA Artcore, and has been in several online group exhibitions through LAAA/825. Cindy had tapestries in “Woven Stories” at MOAH (Lancaster Museum of Art and History) and at RAFFMA at Cal State San Bernardino for “Voices of Ancient Palmyra Resounded.” She participated in “50/50, FIFTY/FIFTY, The Creative Magic of Collaboration” at the Progress Gallery, Pomona, CA. In 2020, Cindy was selected for “Hobson’s Choice” at the Torrance Art Museum. She has exhibited at the Beatnik Lounge and La Matadora Gallery in Joshua Tree and is represented by Desert Peach Gallery in Yucca Valley, CA. You can see more of her work at www.fiberverse.com

Final days to register for the Power of Words early bird rate ($45 off the regular fee)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

End-of-Season Sale on classes & Power of Words Conference

The TLA Network wishes you great peace and harmony as we head toward the end of the year – may you find quiet moments to connect with your voice and your vision during these long winter nights!

There is still time to take advantage of our end-of-season sales on upcoming online classes, as well as time to catch the limited Super Early Bird rate for the 2020 Power of Words Conference – see below for details.

Online Classes Holiday Sale – ends December 25:
Your Memoir as Monologue: Writing Monologues for Healing and Transformation// with Kelly DuMar
January 15 – February 25, 2020
Members – $198.00 – 10% off regular rate
Non-member – $216.00 – 10% off regular rate

The Art of Facilitation: Roots and Blossoms of Facilitation // with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg & Joy Roulier Sawyer
January 15 – February 25, 2020
Members – $225.00 – 10% off regular rate
Non-member – $243.00 – 10% off regular rate

The Art of Facilitation, Pt 2: Facilitating for Change & Community // with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg & Joy Roulier Sawyer
June 10 – July 21, 2020
Members – $225.00 – 10% off regular rate
Non-member – $243.00 – 10% off regular rate

Truth to Power: Poets for Our Times with Poets Laureate // with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Through January 31, 2021
Members – $117.00 – 10% off regular rate
Non-member – $135.00 – 10% off regular rate

Narratives of Self & Society: Writing Life Stories for Change // with Dr. Liz Burke-Cravens
Through January 31, 2021
Members – $117.00 – 10% off regular rate
Non-member – $135.00 – 10% off regular rate

Power of Words 2020 – Super Early Bird Rate
$45 off regular rate for conference fee & meals, available through January 31, 2020:
$430 for members
$450 for non-members
Conference registration fee includes all meals, refreshments, and facilities fees throughout the conference.

The Power of Words Next Fall With Joy Harjo: Register Now!

Please join us October 30 – November 1, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the 17th annual Power of Words Conference: Transformation, Liberation and Celebration Through the Spoken, Written, and Sung Word.  

We are thrilled to have U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo as conference keynoter for our 17th annual conference. We’re also delighted to be going to the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, in the heart of Santa Fe.

Jump in now to catch our Super early bird registration ($45 off the regular conference fee!), which runs through January 31, 2020. The Eldorado, a beautiful hotel and spa in the heart of Santa Fe, is offering us a rate of $139/night is both for singles and doubles, so if you wish to share a room, your lodging costs would be half that amount. Please note that we’ll soon have a roommate-matching site to help facilitate finding a roommate too.

Our conference fee is a modest increase over the 2019 registration fee, but it will look to be higher because it includes all meals, refreshments, and facilities fees (which were previously part of the meals and lodging package).

Discover and share more of your voice with workshops, performances, talking circles, celebration and more, featuring writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, community leaders, activists, educators, and health professionals. 

Learn more about the conference here!

The TLA Network depends on the generosity of you and others like you – consider supporting our work by making an end-of-the-year donation to the Transformative Language Arts Network!  

Please Help the TLA Network Grow! – A Letter From Liz and Hanne

Dear TLA friends and members,

Thank you for being part of the Transformative Language Arts Network. Our network continues to grow, and we are delighted to be building community with you – one of the powerhouse poets, writers, word-smiths, spoken word artists, storytellers, and deeply engaged community activists, health professionals, educators and others who make up our incredible network!

We write to ask you to consider making a contribution to support the work of the TLA Network, a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.

Your contribution will go far in helping us expand our reach, and build on our Power of Words conference, online classes, Chrysalis: A Journal of TLA, and blog to offer all kinds of communities ways to amplify voices and visions for a better world.

The TLA Network serves as a supportive community of thoughtful and engaged practitioners, activists, health professionals, educators, and community leaders dedicated to making the world a better place. In these times, finding our voice, sharing our words, and pulling people together to effect change through the power of words is especially essential. With the rise of corporate-controlled media and the increasingly fractured world of social media, it is crucial that our work and our voices find solid purchase, that we develop new audiences, and that our words continue to serve as invaluable calls to action.

TLAN is also on the cusp of greater reach and effectiveness than ever before with a renewed vision, a new director, and our delight in featuring U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo as our keynoter at our next Power of Words conference, October 30 – November 1, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

At our recent Power of Words conference this past September, in Phoenix, Arizona, we met many amazing TLA Network members who eagerly shared what a difference the TLA Network and our conference make in their lives. In the short time since we started our roles as TLA Network Chair and Managing Director, we have witnessed how many dozens of people find greater meaning, vitality, and connection through our vibrant online classes, the Your Right Livelihood training, and our TLA Foundations certification.

We imagine you’ve experienced your own stories: friendships forged, collaborations created, and enormous good work enacted. People leave our conference, classes, and trainings feeling reconnected, rejuvenated, energized — inspired to continue doing powerful work that changes the world.

We ask you to contribute toward any of the following:

  • Scholarships for the Power of Words conference so that we can widen the circle to include more folks who are economically disadvantaged, more young people and people of color, those living with disabilities, and others on the margins who have something vital to say and share,
  • Scholarships for our online classes and to support people immersing themselves in right livelihood training,
  • Helping underwrite some of our keynoters, including Joy Harjo, for the 2020 Power of Words conference,
  • Website re-design to better communicate the scope of our work and depth of our vision, or
  • General operating expenses so that we can expand our capacity to reach more who would benefit from the power of words in their lives and communities.

To the power of words,

Hanne Weedon, Managing Director                                     Liz Burke-Cravens, Council Chair

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.