Okay, okay, I know this blog is mostly about my cycling adventures via recumbent trike, and also often features stories about life with MS & my service dog, Luke… But I’ve not been able to ride for a while (too long). I have, however, been having some creative, wordy adventures that I believe are more-than-worth sharing. I think, too, that this is a great example of living life to the fullest, even when – for whatever reason – your circumstances in life are keeping you from doing one of the things you most love (the way I love cycling). Sometimes, things happen. What our day-to-day lives look like, changes. Once my MS symptoms reached a certain point, I gave up theatre acting, which I dearly loved, which I used to “live for.” After a while, I re-discovered & re-invested in my love of creative writing. I realized that my undergrad studies in theatre were not only about the performance aspect, but equally about storytelling, character development, bringing words to life. So I nudged my dreams, my vocation, my “loves” a little this-a-way, a little that-a-way – I transformed them to fit my new day-to-day realities, to jibe with my changed (by MS) life. (in fact, I became a dream-kleptomaniac) I decided to go to grad school, study creative writing, get an MFA in Poetry. Which put me on a path that has led to some of the most cherished journeys, projects, and people of my life.
There are always small & big ways we have to adapt, re-envision, re-design ourselves. Sometimes we only need for-now changes; sometimes we need long-term changes; sometimes (and, trust me, nobody likes to think about these times) we need permanent, forever changes to the story of ourselves. For now, I’m focusing more energy on the writer-me, and, hopefully, not too far in the future, I’ll get back to giving lots of focus & energy to the cycling-me, as well. Until then (forever & always!), I stick with my life-motto: No Opportunity Wasted. Seizing the chance to partner up & collaborate with an entire community of folks on this creative endeavor was the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in a long time. It was also the first time that I was formally commissioned to write poetry!
I had the opportunity to craft a new klepto-collaborative poem from the 2nd season of speakers for Creative Mornings in Austin, TX. What’s more, I had the great honor of watching my word-creation come to life on a stage (with bright lights & a microphone & a huge-o-mongous, rapt-attention audience) by way of performance artist & slam poet extraordinaire Danny Strack.
Thank you, to all of the Creative Mornings / ATX team, everybody who organized, volunteered, sponsored & participated in any way. You are a wild-wonderful, “disturbative,” crossover-y, jump off the normal-train, true-north, high-five & fist-bumping, zombie-for-your-love, ecstatic-dance group of Austin, Texas characters, and I couldn’t love y’all more. In fact, I feel rather blue-dozen-y without you, already.
Special thanks to Ben Thoma & Ann Blocker, who saw the potential of my klepto-collaborative poetic form & invited me to be part of this gigantic collaborative effort. Some people can’t “jump off the ‘normal’ train” because they were never on it. Not that I’m mentioning any names.
Ann & Ben
And Super-duper thanks to the speakers who allowed me to “steal” their words & phrases for my art, because I couldn’t have crafted this poem without each & every one of you: Megan Cates, Josh Hare, Kate Niederhoffer & Lucy Price, Elizabeth Mack, Chris McCray, Jen Spencer, Briks Lovesyou, Andy Crouch, DJ Stout, Jeff Wilson aka “Professor Dumpster,” Katie Ford, and Suzy Spencer.
I’ll be posting a longer/more extended version of the #CMATX Birthday Bash celebration klepto-collaborative poem later, along with an additional klepto-collaborative poem (or more) from an individual speaker (or more). I love this poetic form! When the original texts & the speakers themselves are especially inspiring, crafting my own piece of art from their words is a transformational process for me, something I feel incredibly blessed to be allowed to be a part of. I truly don’t know how to say Thanks often & loudly enough. My fondest hope is that the poems themselves – the time, energy & heart that I put into them – speak to the immense gratitude that I feel.
I’ve had my creative writing published, I’ve read & performed my own poems, I’ve spent my fair share of time on stages saying other people’s words in plays – but hearing my poetry in someone else’s voice, that was a new, humbling & thrilling experience. Thanks, again, to Danny, for his engaging performance, which had everybody on their feet, hootin’ & hollerin’ Texas-style. Seriously: WOW. What a night!
Okay, are you ready to read this Texas-big poem I keep talking about???
~ a klepto-collaborative poem written by Denise Lanier & performed by Danny Strack for CreativeMornings/Austin
Let’s start things that lead to meaningful change, really big transitions, ecstatic dance, a permanent sense of place.
Let’s have a burial ceremony for artificial realities, helplessness & hopelessness, too many rules, this Rolex, 400 pages of legalese, the ugly sweater scene, oppressors of the margins, the myth of having it all.
Let’s open ourselves up to traveling cross-country in a Volkswagon van through a metaphysical Mojave desert of self-discovery. Know it’s gonna get messy, know that you’re worth it.
Believe in the process, the core idea, high fives all-around, “I need a little bit of help,” the blank spaces, losing things, resizing, reshaping, disrupting, walking into a big crossover, declaring “I fail!”
It’s okay to say, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” Intense discomfort is just compost fermenting. See yourself blooming blues on oranges, greens on pinks, pinks on greens with a willingness to risk. Failures, shortcomings & flaws… the seeds of do-overs, successes & small businesses
Don’t follow in the same footsteps as everyone before you. Close your eyes, make a commitment. Jump off the “normal” train.
Take a few steps back every once in a while, or up stairs that double as monkey bars, willing to Evel Knievel outside your comfort zone. Take suggestions, photographs, a bow, time out to celebrate, a seat between every third drink.
Come back home to Austin. Come back to open up a ramen place. Come back to center. Come face-to-face with multiple generations in crisis.
People who avoid risks are rewarded with a series of really bad judgment calls in the middle of nowhere with very little cell reception, surrounded by stuck, uninspired, fuck-you hippies.
People who take risks are rewarded with happy little accidents, a lot of mojo.
Give everybody a turn, a round of applause, honest advice another chance, a Thank You. Give an awkward side-hug to the shit show half the time of your life. Get breakfast tacos, a Stetson hat, one big inspiration. Get accountable, get tempted. Get loud, get tattoos, get acquainted in a kitchen. Have a rock, paper, scissors tournament.
Throw a bone, a sign, a zombie for his love, a fist-bump, this mantra, “You can do it, You can do it, You can do it.”
Stand up & raise your right hand, promise to participate in amazing cultural things, volunteer work, a journey of transformation, collaboration, something unexpected, a very long weekend of pizza & beer.
Find your voice, creative solutions, a compulsion to make. Hear the kids. Hear the band. Stand up & dance. Shake up the status-quo boat. Shake it, you sexy thang.
Burn past pain & hurt, mix up the soot with rainwater. Paint what you know, what you’d like to see, an enormous dragon mural about that tug inside, your legacy.
Everybody needs to be playing in that place where failure’s gonna happen. Scary & painful, like a giant sewing machine going over your skin for hours & hours. But you survive it, coming out wild, stately, impressive more bad-ass & brave.
It’s up to you to feed new ideas, fire-starters, this Friday morning community.
Go out there, be fully you and create magic.
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Here’s what the Creative Mornings/Austin folks had to say on their blog:
A Poetic Celebration
As part of our celebration of CreativeMornings/Austin’s second season, we launched a poetic collaboration. Before you read this poem, you should know: none of the words were written by the poet. Instead, it was compiled from the words of twelve different people—all speakers in this past season of CreativeMornings/Austin events.
In a process she refers to as klepto-collaborative, poet Denise Lanier tirelessly combed through all twelve talks and then cut them up, rearranging phrases and turning the words of these 12 separate people, spoken in 12 different months, into one cohesive, lyrical and powerful piece of poetry. The first performance of this poem was by Austin poet and slammaster, Danny Strack, at our #CMATX celebration on April 29, 2015. Can you spot the phrases that came from your favorite speaker?
Denise Sebesta Lanier is an educator, advocate & storyteller, who believes in the power of narrative to transform, transport & create connection. As inventor of a poetic form called klepto-collaborative, she pickpockets words & phrases from others, reshuffling & reshaping the puzzle-pieces into a colorful mosaic of diverse voices. Denise founded WordPlay, a poetry-in-the-schools project inspired by Dave Eggers’ Once Upon A School call to action, voiced during his TED Talk about 826 National. She was recognized with a TED Challenge Spirit Award for WordPlay. Denise has an MFA in Poetry, and her writing has appeared in Bloomsbury Review & Best American Poetry blog. She also writes a blog about life with MS, a service dog & a recumbent trike at wonkybent.com
Danny Strack has been performing poetry live for over a decade. He holds slam championship titles at national, regional and city levels. He is the author of 10 books of poetry and two plays, a five-time member / three-time coach of teams representing Austin at the National Poetry Slam, and the current Slammaster/Executive Director of the Austin Poetry Slam.
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Check out the Creative Mornings site to see if there’s a chapter in your city. If so, go forth! (If not, Psssst, all the info for how to grow a CM community where you live is right on the website.) In the meantime, you can watch videos of all the groovy talks from all over the world. Following the CM Blog is also probably one of the best ways to add some Woohoo! to your day. Who doesn’t need a little more of that?