Wear it Like A headscarf



      A Klepto-collaborative Poem of TEDxYouth@TheWoodlands ~ January 7, 2012

First off, I have some questions:

Is Osama Bin Laden your uncle?

Why isn’t something being done?

What caused such an act of violence?

Why do you wear that thing?

Why am I thinking this?

What’s worth fighting for?

How much blood would he have to give?

Are you going to blow up a building?

How are you going to pay for college?

Who in this room has autism?

Are these people going to kill you?

What two different things can you combine to create something new?

How pumped up is your science teacher?

What are you capable of?

Can you change your world?

Can you give us some practical things?

What separates you?

Do I let it show?

Hey, Wally, what should I do?

OK, wait          Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Close your eyes          A knock on the door

Look          A story          As good as a circus

A phenomenal journey          To different parts of the world

Running through a canopy of trees          Like Indiana Jones          From point A to point B

A giant step          Inspired by          Wildscape

A mission trip          In the fellowship of each other

A long, personal conversation          A quest for knowledge

Outside the reservation of          What you and I take for granted

To a village          Where the girl in the middle’s doing a very good job

Learning the alphabet           Of hope

Which roughly translates to          School Where We Have Fun

Where knowledge and education are universal

Where there’s          No stereotypes or stigmas

Where            Instead of          Mud huts          No running water or electricity

There’s          A bed in every room          A pillow          Under her head

There’s          Enough

Dive          Just beneath the surface

Of what you think you know          Of an excess of everything

Imagine if you will          Waiting at the bus stop          Of progress

With an empty stomach          Only one meal a day

This is a letter

From The eyes of a child          My mother          My teacher

Saying           Become an advocate          Support kids          Make an impact

Raise your awareness          Serve as interpreters

Go around          Boxes          Of default programming

Go to school          Lead by example          Occupy

Shrug it off          Wash everything off          Cover the wound

Everything’s gonna be alright

Come together          Rise above          Become great people

Effect incredible change          Innovate          Inspire

Begin to see our originality          Don’t take candy from strangers

Fast-forward through          The media

Trust me          Just do that

Welcome          A trainload of                     Cans          Filled with          Awestruck

Coexist          With our flaws          SpongeBob          And          The Beave

With every          Kaleidoscope          Ideology

Open up          Break ground          Go around the rail yard          Dancing

Elevate          Compassion          Highlight          Heroes

Gravitate towards          People who believe in you

Find groups          Of          A Sweet Intent

Go for your dreams          Overcome every obstacle

You must be patient          You can do whatever you want to do

The secret is          To own it

Spend a lot of time          Collecting          A vast array of

Heart-beating          Beauty:

Oxygen               Maps          Of humble beginnings

A round of applause          Weather data & sculpture

Proud          Car batteries & wire

Theme parks & small shacks          Chess-playing          Elephants

Bright red blood          Reflections of iceberg blue

My life story          Cleaned and weighed


Hear my voice          Hold the door

Feed          Clothe          Nurture          Shelter

Provoke          Create               Read          Literature

Stand on top of the Whitehouse          And          Think of your children

See originality          See connections          Keep looking          Acknowledge

Sell more groundnuts          Pay back that loan

Play Legos          Play soccer          Play the composition again

Have a bit of a gimmick          In the way of a bicyclist

Step back and consider          The rise of text messaging          Of domestic violence

Have a great system          Make that tension go away

Center          Be quiet          Change the channel          Change the setting

Resurrect          Initiative          Hard work          High regard

Swim for two hours in          The stuff nobody talks about

Summon the energy to          Make a smirk between the asterisks

Make the case            For continuing to hone           A better future for us all

Create a better world          With clean water          Education          Safe shelter

Change the life of           “Hi, my name is Jim.”

Look at this view

Imagine          You can stand here and see

Unity          All these people holding hands

Diversity           You were not expecting

Our best resource is          The human spirit

Growing          Empowerment & compassion

Carry all of this around every day

Country to country, community to community

Wear it

Like          A headscarf

Our flag

A privilege


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

3 responses »

  1. Denise,

    We are honored by your poem. Thank you for capturing the diverse richness of the TEDxYouth@TheWoodlands in such a creative and evocative manner. I was not able to witness your poem reading in person unfortunately and was so looking forward to seeing it here.

    The youth speakers and performers will feel validated by your klepto-collaborative work of art.

    Thank you for sharing your artistry with our event earlier this month.

    Warm regards,

    Peter Han


  2. Pingback: Beyond Measure « WordPlay

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