3 New Klepto-Collaborative Poems


The technical/communication universe is supremely ticked off at me:  first my Mac died, then my iPhone’s Apps all got erased, then Comcast internet services failed, going on over a week now.  Which is why I haven’t posted for a while.  But now I come back to you with 3 new klepto-collaborative poems from TEDxAustin!

I’d like to do a much more thorough intro on these speakers, as I did with the previous ones for Chris Riley  and David R. Dow, but I’m zipping in and out of this Starbucks as quickly as possible so this is going to be a bit more brief than I’d prefer.

Todd Humphreys is a professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics.  He heads a team at UT studying GPS technology: spoofing and jamming, personal, corporate and national security, all of its capacity to serve us, save us, get us lost, or harm us.  What I really wanted to ask him is whether the little blue GPS dots can be utilized to find my car in the airport parking garage.  There really should be an App for that.  Wait.  Is there already?  Somebody let me know.

One of the ways this technology has impacted my own life in the last couple of years is by way of an App called Cyclemeter by Abvio.  I ride in the NYC Marathon with Team Leary Firefighters Foundation using a recumbent trike as reasonable accommodation for a disability.  (you can read about that on my other blog, Wonky Woman On A Bent Trike, if you’re so inclined)  It does what you’d expect in terms of mapping and timing rides, giving me that data in nifty little graphs that compare my times from previous rides on the same route and keeps all my rides on a calendar so that I can chart my progress by week, month, year.  But what I find most valuable about Cyclemeter is the peace-of-mind quotient.

I have MS, and in the day to day world I go about my life with the help of my mobility assistance dog.  When I’m out riding, though, Luke is not able to be with me.   So anytime I’m off the trike during rides – water fountain, bathroom breaks, doing emergency maintenance, stretching, manhandling the trike in and out of the rack on the car – I’m at increased risk for falling.  Since one of Luke’s primary superpowers is helping me up when I fall, being out on roads and trails without him is a mite dangerous.  (this is one of those risk/reward things)

When I’m out on training rides I’m usually too steeped in the freedom and independence that I’m enjoying to worry about the What Ifs, but my husband Gary does not have the same distractions from concern.  When I’m away from home riding, without my trusty sidekick/co-pilot, part of Gary’s consciousness is wrapped up in wondering if I’m okay, whether I’m back home safe and sound yet.  A phone call at the beginning, half-way through and the end of my ride used to be our routine.  But now, thanks to Cyclemeter, life’s much simpler for both of us, and much less anxiety ridden on Gary’s part.

Here’s why:  when I begin my ride the program is set to send Gary an email with a link that includes my start time and location.  Gary can use that link to check on my progress throughout my ride.  Cyclemeter syncs with Google Maps and updates my location using the GPS on my phone.  If the little blue dot that is me stays in one place for too long – longer than stretching or a bathroom break would warrant – Gary might call me.  If I don’t respond he knows exactly where to go looking.  And, if it’s the weekend and he’s at home while I’m out riding, he can gauge by the blue dot when I’m about to arrive home and have hot chocolate or a smoothie waiting for me.  I love that Gary doesn’t have to worry (well, okay, he still worries – but not as much!)  and I love those waiting-for-me smoothies or cups of steaming cocoa on chilly days 🙂

Here’s my klepto-collaborative poem from Todd Humphrey’s Talk at TEDxAustin.  Todd, if you’re reading this, never in my wildest dreams have I imagined crafting a poem even remotely related to aerospace engineering!


Imagine a world full of GPS dots.

Little          sensitive          lighthouses

to guide you.

Each one with

a     reassuring blue halo

of     Here you are!

A silent     subversive     relay.

A carrier     of

accuracy matters.

And                              unfortunately

inherently     prone to

errors the size of a small room.

You     might get     tracked

harassed     or     even     hijacked

with this     invisible utility.

At the expense of     privacy.

Leaving     behind          safety.

In the wrong hands     it might be deadly.

Someone who feels threatened     with this

“Big Neighbor”          potential for chaos

might design     a Frankenstein     tool.

But     if you knew what you were doing

you could build          a wave bubble

to spoof     your possessions     car      house.

A switch     to be thrown

to reclaim personal space

to help protect     the general population.

Or     a design     that rises to the level of

awful           fearsome environment

panicked                   game over.

An     invasion of blue dots     is     looming.

Like     a thick     imperceptible     fog

just over the horizon.

You     could be the proud owner  of

a bagful          of           technical twist.

Captain of               You can trust us!


I already told you how crazy I am for Ellie Audet in my previous post.  My “want” for one of those paper fashion creations of hers has grown into full-blown covet within the couple weeks since TEDxAustin.  So much thought have I given her delightful paper creations that I’ve come to the conclusion an  Ellie-created tutu is precisely the thing I should not be without in next year’s New York City Marathon.  You know, to make me pedal faster, to give me something whimsical and beyond-measure-beautiful to focus on during the uphills of all those bridges.  It would be a tangible, wearable, Easter-Sunday-rebirth-festive symbol of the privilege and gratitude I feel to be a part of Team Leary Firefighters Foundation and among the field of challenged athletes who overcome incredible odds to show up at the starting line.  Those folks who, along with me, make of each and every mile an outright parade of celebration for what we can do.  Which, when you think about it, is an adventure of transformational proportions.

I was thinking the tutu would be my version of a superhero cape.  Because even though I’m a cyclist and a differently-abled marathoner, I’m first and foremost a poet.  So it makes perfect sense to me that my superhero signifier of flight – of resurrecting courage and hope, of conquering adversity – would be a tutu rather than a cape :0)

Ellie, if you’re reading this, imagine the klepto-collaborative poem I made from your TED Talk written in flourishes of cursive with peacock-teal ink on cotton-candy-blue handmade paper, with maraschino-cherry-red confetti, lavender flower petals, silver and gold glitter, slivery strips of tangerine and sunshine yellow satiny ribbon woven into the mix.   Oh, and I’d like to place my official order for a Ellie Audet Original tutu to wear with tremendous paper-lovin’ pride during the 2012 NYC Marathon, please.  Can you do something with an orange, red and yellow flame motif?  I’m pretty sure that would help me pedal faster, and I have no doubt that the firefighters I raise funds and awareness for would really appreciate the oxymoronic irony of such a flammable fashion statement sporting its own “fire.”


A little girl

viewing     math, origami, all coming together.

Playing with     notions     of fashion

to      create something          useful.

Convey    love of         the      beautiful.

Rest your eyes on     this dress.

Cherish          the way it folds, crinkles.

The role of          paper projections

in    relationship to          fractal geometry.

Inspiration     is     basically

a     chef.

Challenge          yourself.

And then suddenly          a couple’s lawn

is transformed into

an angry queen’s          skirt.


Penny de los Santos is a storyteller, like me, except that she uses her camera instead of a word processor as her primary means of story-craft.  I love her way of exploring culture and identity through food.  I love her beliefs about seeing and connecting.  I love that from now on I can legitimize any culinary indulgence as “cultural exploration.”  Thanks for that, Penny!

And thank you, with all sincerity, for your unforgettable, evocative images.  Your photography is indeed a storied feast.  I am welcomed by your invitation, drawn into the circle of warm glow, of community and connection.  My heart and mind are nourished by the symbolic meals you prepared with your inspired poetic visioning.


Create this canvas

locked and loaded

with light, composition and color

on the most random of street corners.


first taste     next plane     last breath

expressions of who we are.

A beautiful

capture human moments

chicken soup     mosaic


noticed, appreciated


Look at

this picture     prayer

of     a mother

in her     last    hours

surrounded by her children

sharing a meal

of     sacred

from a TV tray.


the entire room



with connection.

Watch     a      father

visiting     the

room went black     grave

of      his     one     true

like nothing else

every 1/100th of a second

I     think    of     you

flowers     forever


Be brave enough

to     peel away our


gender, nationality

last confession     differences

taught     to us          by

soldiers     of

dark     history

blind     government

the Mexican border

of our mind’s eye.


we’re not

open, present, vulnerable

seeing          and          connecting

then     we’re     all


lost the picture     refugees

turn for the worse

watchmen on the rooftops.

Take the first taste


see this moment


Become the visual storyteller

savoring intensely



an orange golden hue on

across the globe     all around us

under the carport



fled their home country

careful to keep a low profile.

They brought


taught to them by their mothers.

In the dowdiest diners

they gather around     meals

to remember

to      taste


Will you make me some?


Photos by Gary Lanier


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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