What an Evening


I had the great pleasure of introducing Frances Aldana the night she read her prize-winning poem at Books & Books. Thought I’d share with you what I said:

Frances Aldana is a talented artist, a gifted poet. She is the kind of kid who encourages the words of the students sitting next to her, who applauds her classmates’ courage and their clever stories, who offers to read the poem of a child who wants their words heard, but is too shy to stand up in front of everyone.
Frances understands the process of revision. Which is to say that by the end of our 40 minute poetry workshops, Frances was already pressing into my hands a paper with cross-outs and arrows directing the reader to new and better ways she had discovered to express her ideas. Which is to say that she already understands that hard work must follow initial inspiration.
Frances’ poems from our time together feature some of my favorite lines and characters. She finds humor and adventure just about everywhere she looks: in our circus poems, she wrote about a lion dancing the Macarena, and in our jet pack themed poems, she described a jet pack which possessed the special feature of taking her back in time to when her grandmother was alive. Which is to say that Frances, at her tender age, has already embraced the essence of poetry—of all art, really—speaking the truth of our hearts, giving our minds permission to imagine that anything is possible.
Each time, every single time that I went to Frances’ class, she found time to say Thank You. And that, too, is the mark of a fine poet because it means that she is paying attention, that she is aware of giving and receiving, that she knows what matters to her, and isn’t afraid to say so. I celebrate all of that, and so much more, about her.


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. www.deniselanier.wordpress.com & www.wonkybent.wordpress.com

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