IMA faculty member and founder and coordinator of Transformative Language Arts Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has just begun a two-year term as Kansas Poet Laureate. Appointed by the governor after being recommended by the Kansas Arts Commission, the poet laureate travels around the state to promote poetry and the literary arts, something Mirriam-Goldberg has plenty of experience with during the 18 years she's been leading community writing workshops. Mirriam-Goldberg is also an experienced writer, who has 10 books in print or forthcoming, including a new memoir, The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir about Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body, and a fourth collection of poetry, Landed, which will include a CD of the author reading her work along with singer Kelley Hunt performing songs co-written with Mirriam-Goldberg.
On July 1 at the Lawrence Arts Center, Mirriam-Goldberg took the torch, which was literally a giant sunflower (the symbol for the State of Kansas), from outgoing Poet Laureate Denise Low in front of a packed house. The event not only celebrated the outgoing and income poets laureate, but launched the first publication of the new Imagination and Place press, a project of the Committee on Imagination and Place.
During her 14 years at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg has taught extensively in the Individualized MA program, and before that, the combined BA and MA program. She also founded Transformative Language Arts, which provides education for those drawn to writing, storytelling and performing -- using the power of words on the page and aloud -- for community building, spiritual growth, health and well-being, and social change. As someone who's offered writing workshops to a wide variety of people -- including housing authority residents, people of color, adults in transition, teens, intergeneration groups, and people living with cancer and other illness -- Mirriam-Goldberg has helped many find more of what they need to create and share as well as how to make stronger community together by witnessing one another's writing. She has also co-written songs with rhythm and blues singer Kelley Hunt, who performed at the July 1st event, and with Hunt, co-led Brave Voice: Writing and Singing for Your Life workshops and retreats.
"The poet laureate position follows the line of my life," Mirriam-Goldberg explains. "I'll be simply doing TLA on a much bigger scale in my home state and also in other places in the country. My main project for this position, 'Poetry Across Kansas: Reading and Writing Our Way Home,' is a combination of writing workshops, trainings and support for community people to facilitate ongoing writing circles, readings and presentations. I'm also thrilled to be doing a monthly radio show, available in podcasts, on High Plains Public Radio, which will give listeners a writing exercise to try at home as well as expose them to the writing of Kansas and other High Plains writers."
In reflecting on the life she leads, mostly in Kansas but also regularly in Vermont, Mirriam-Goldberg said, "I know that Kansas and Vermont are about 1,400 miles away, but there's a seamless connection between the value of the arts for changing the world both here in my town, which has a long history of social activism dating back to its Free State roots during the civil war, and Goddard College, which has long been a light for changing the world."
Listen to a podcast of Mirriam-Goldberg reading some poetry from her forthcoming collection, Landed. This podcast includes a collection of her yoga poems. See her website and blog too.
Photos, from top, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg; Mirriam-Goldberg, Denise Low and Rick Mitchell from the Imagination and Place committee; Kelley Hunt; driving through Kansas; kayaking in Kansas at Brave Voice.