Jetpacks, coming to a kid near you!


As mentioned in a previous post, I won the life-changing gift of a scholarship to the 2009 TED conference in Palm Springs. This poetry in the schools projectWordPlay–was selected from the many efforts submitted and represented for the Once Upon a School initiative created by Dave Eggers, as the project most exemplifying the spirit of 826Valencia & 826National. Once Upon a School is where people of the TED Community–anybody who wants to participate, regardless of whether you identify as a TEDster–enroll their own projects of involvement with their local public schools. The only “requirement” is that you bring passion–that you share whatever it is that fires you up–so that the kids of our communities might be lit, engaged, inspired, from your time with them. Whether that be once, for a half-hour, or once a month for the duration of a school year, or weekly; as much or as little time as you have to give. The whole idea is pass it on–the it being something, someone, somewhere you are passionate about. Because if you’re excited about the Civil War or the Dingos of Australia or photography or recumbent trikes or firefighters or feral cats or pitbulls–then that will come through, it will be contagious, and you’ll fuel the interest, perhaps even an equalled passion, in the minds and hearts of the children in your local community.

At the TED conference last week, I saw a guy who’s invented a jetpack; his journey and adventures were inspiring, dizzying. (For those of you unfamiliar with TED, one of the chief ideas is that Anything is possible–and that by coming together and sharing ideas–we can figure out How to make it happen!)

After some video and photos by the jetpack inventor, the Luminescent and Witty and Effervescent Jill Sobule sang her song “Jetpack” live for us! I told my poetry kids about the jetpack invention, played them Jill’s song, and asked them to write a poem about what they would do if they had their very own jetpack.

Where would you go? What would the jetpack look like? Would it have any special features? Would you take anybody or anything with you on your trips? If so, who, what, why? And remember–ANYTHING is possible!

This is the most exhilarated the kids have been with a writing assignment since we did the circus experience. I think their ideas are phenomenal (what heart! what cheek!)–and their art is illuminating (from practical design to sci-fi special effects!)–make sure you check these out.

And please leave comments that I can deliver to the children.Your praise helps them embrace the titles of Poet and Artist. And who among us does not deserve encouragement and celebration for gathering and exercising the courage it takes to be poet-artist wordy-rebels in this world, today?


About deniselanier

I am an educator & advocate, poet & performer, speaker & storyteller who believes in the power of narrative to transform & transport, create & connect. I was the shy, awkward girl who didn’t fit in, was often bullied, happiest with my nose in books, whose best friend was my dog. After being cast in a play in my teens I discovered a way to be comfortable in my own skin, bringing to life the words of a character. Costumed in make-believe I dared to be more of myself than I ever allowed off-stage; I claimed my voice. I spent most of my adult life teaching others to raise their own voices, through acting, creative writing, even slam poetry. When the diagnosis of MS intervened in my 30s I had to let go of acting, which is why most of my storytelling is now expressed through page and less “formal” interactions with stages. I devote much of my time to kids, teaching them to use words & imagination, developing authentic, resilient, remarkable voices. I endeavor to grow in my students the belief, the truth, that we are all artists & the change-makers in our own stories. My best friend still has fur & four legs. My mobility assistance dog is my constant companion, teaching assistant & muse to many. Luke is also chief partner in crime; I’m getting a reputation for stealing things. As inventor of a poetic form called klepto-collaborative, I pickpocket words & phrases from others, reshuffling & reshaping the puzzle-pieces into a colorful, storied mosaic of diverse voices. Taking something from every speaker at a conference in real-time, I craft a collective poem that highlights the messages of the day, repurposing ideas & refashioning stories, weaving them together in a manner that never loses the originality & spirit of the speakers’ themes. So while I may be a word thief, I figure being eco-conscious makes up for it. I’m available to facilitate wordy goodness in your community, school, workplace or play space. I like to think I have way of transforming annual meetings into something interactive, cooperative & memorable. Through my klepto-collaborative poems I aim to delight, to ignite conversation, and maybe even incite innovation. I earned an MFA from Florida International University, where I edited Gulf Stream Literary Magazine. I’m the founder of WordPlay, a poetry-in-the-schools project inspired by Dave Eggers. My poetry has appeared in Bloomsbury Review, Cake, Luna, Best American Poetry blog (a collaborative poem with the phenomenal Denise Duhamel), Wicked Good Life, and various anthologies. My non-fiction has appeared in the Miami Herald and my fiction has been nominated for Best New American Voices. &

4 responses »

  1. You guys are so creative! You have all inspired me to write about a jetpack, too. When I was a kid, I always wanted to have a jetpack or a hovercraft. I realized when I became a writer that imagining one was better than having the real thing because you could make it do whatever you wanted it to do. What do you guys think about that? Is it better to have the real thing, or to make one up with your imagination?

    Good job!


  2. Pingback: Part IV « Wonky Woman on a Bent Trike

  3. Pingback: Do You Have a Jetpack Yet? « WordPlay

  4. Pingback: Letters & Donations S. W. A. K. « WordPlay

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