Gift On Top Of Gift!


As if witnessing the klepto-collaboritive poem I created for the anniversary of #CMATX (Creative Mornings in Austin, TX) being performed live on-stage – by the talented Danny Strack – wasn’t already the most astounding gift, the geniuses at CMATX went on to make a spectacular video featuring my poem & Danny’s riveting performance, inter-spliced with still images & snippets of original film from the past season’s twelve inspiring, motivating, all-around-fabulous speakers.  In one word:  WOW.


I know, I know, my klepto-collaborative poems are cobbled together from other (smarter) people’s words & phrases – but the end product, the wordy “puzzle-pieces” mixed up & fitted together into a brand new, same & yet different image/story, that new-made creation is of my doing.  I love the mix-&-match “patch working” that goes into my klepto-collaborative poems, and I especially enjoyed the process of making this particular poem from the words & phrases of CMATX’s second season of speakers.  I watched the video of each speaker’s talk 3 times & I was moved with every single viewing, each session of close-listening.

While I have often described my klepto-collaborative poems as similar to “recycling” & “repurposing” words & phrases, those terms don’t do justice to the words & phrases that are my raw materials, my building blocks. What I pick & choose to use from other people’s talks & written works are what my eyes & ears deem the shiniest, most unique & meaningful artifacts. (Kind of like panning for gold, if you will.)

Being handed these twelve talks from CMATX & asked (hired, as in, paid!) to engage in the creative process that excites me most – pickpocketing words from total strangers & shaping (& reshaping, over & over) those words into a new body of art –  that experience was (I imagine) like a jeweler being given the deeds to gold & silver mines & told, “Make whatever you want to make!”

The community & organizers of CMATX gave me a rare gift. Not only did I get to create something I love (& feel extremely proud of), but I also got to sit at the edge of the stage during their Birthday Bash celebration,  listening to & watching my newly-made piece of art come to life.  And, now, this magnificent video.

I’m able to view this little gem of a film – again & again, if I like –  which beautifully showcases my klepto-collaborative poem.  The “collaborative” part of that process has, by virtue of this video, been greatly extended to include so many more people & their talents.  I love that my poem has been further “recycled” into this video form.  I love the daisy-chain-evolution of artist after artist, each adding to & altering & “giving voice” to the poem. First, the poem was words on a page; then, the poem became a live performance on a stage; now, the poem has yet another (almost infinite) life on film.  Most of all, I love that the totality of this latest artistic collaboration gives even more exposure to the speakers of CMATX & the entire group of folks that make up the Creative Mornings / Austin, TX community.

The “Second Cut” video is, to my eyes & ears, a perfect thing of art.  I am thrilled to have my poem be a part of something that extraordinary.  How will I ever manage to say Thank You enough?  I don’t know if it’s even possible, but here’s a start.  Huge, heartfelt gratitude going out to all of the following folks.

The twelve Season Two speakers of CMATX:  Suzy Spencer, Katie Ford, Jen Spencer, Chris McCray, Elizabeth Mack, Jeff Wilson (AKA Professor Dumpster), DJ Stout, Lucy Price & Kate Niederhoffer, Josh Hare, Megan Cates, Andy Crouch, and Briks Lovesyou.

This video is essentially anchored by the phenomenal street art of Briks & scored with original (remarkable!) music performed by Graham Reynolds.  Film editing by Erik Proulx; primary film & color by Scott Clark; additional film by Paul Raila, Jenna Pool, The Delivery Men.  Photography by Callie Richmond, Manny Pandya, Scott Moakley, Sarah Moore, Leslie Borhem-Stephenson, Patrick Lu.  Also featuring super-groovy Austin musicians:  Nick & Paige, Whalers, Little Brave, Elsa Cross, Taylor & The Wild Now, Nano Whitman, Julian Acosta, Graham Reynolds, Eric Bettencort, Elija Ford, Britny Lobas & Ray Kainz.

The organizers of CMATX rock the Creative Mornings house:  Ann Blocker, Ben Thoma, Erik Proulx, Stu Smith, Ashely Hathaway, Kim Tidwell, Shari Bare, Nick Boettcher, Brian Thompson, Sharon Tan, Rebecca Greenwald, Sarah Schutzki, Polly Thurston, Paige DeChausse, Kelly Hemmeline, and Kameron Ferhmann.  Did I miss anybody?  (I feel like I’m giving an awards speech – except all of these folks are the ones who deserve to take home the swag!)

All of the organizers & most of the community members of CMATX can be reached right here, on their website.  Even better, go to a CMATX get-together & meet them in person.  (You won’t regret it.)

Thank you, too, to all of the venues that host CMATX events, and to all of the sponsors who believe in & support what Creative Mornings is all about.

{  Are you possibly wondering, what is Creative Mornings all about?*  If so, click HERE.  And, you’re welcome!  =-)  }

*Short answer:  Coffee, breakfast foodstuffs, creativity, connection.  #AndOftentimesMusic #AllForFree #ChaptersOfCMAllOverTheGlobe  #DidIMentionCoffee?



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. &

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