Whole-body Elegy


When fellow writer Chitra Divakaruni sent me an email saying their family dog had died & her son had made a dance video to honor Juno, and would I please watch & then share – I was expecting to get a little teary-eyed from viewing the tribute:  I was not expecting to see love & grief transformed to such a pure-deep-true level of art that my heart would be opened up utterly.

The way Abhay Divakaruni moves limbs, his articulations of hand & foot, spine, neck & head is whole-body elegy.  This choreography – that he has created & inhabited so fully, with such celebration & tender fury – is dance poetry.

Dear Abhay, I must thank you.  Your art has reached through our not-knowing-each-other and made me feel less alone, more understood, because we have all – in one way or another – been a boy who lost his beloved dog, who still (please) just wants our beloved to come back to us, to (please) (I miss you) come home.

If art is about connection, there can be no argument that your dance qualifies.   Juno was a lucky dog to have called your family her home.   Blessings & peace to you & yours, Abhay,

Denise Lanier

Abhay speaks eloquently about his relationship to dance in this TEDtalk:

This is the artistic expression version of what Phil Keoghan calls No Opportunity Wasted!  I believe it’s just as important to enact leaps of faith, great acts of daring, extraordinary reaches toward vulnerability & connection & grace with our art.  Even – especially? – from places of darkness, longing, loss & mourning.



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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