Power of Words 2005

The Power of Words 2005 Conference

The Power of Words conference: Liberating Yourself and the World Through the Spoken, Written and Sung Word, held Aug. 6-9, 2005 at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont brought together 80 writers, educators, counselors, activists, artists and storytellers to dwell together in liberation and language. The conference was luminous with moving moments, including a heart-felt tribute to Grace Paley, our keynote speaker who, because of illness, was unable to attend…or so we thought. That was until Grace and her husband Bob let us know that Grace was feeling well enough to drop in, and the whole conference gathered to give Grace a standing ovation, and listen to her wisdom about language, politics, and life.

Other highlights included an energetic performance by singer-songwriter Deidre McCalla who sang powerful and moving songs about social change, love, parenting, making and keeping community. She told stories of her life as an African-American, lesbian, single-parent doing home schooling while on the road, and sang us into greater community with each other. A magical spoken word performance that combined poetry of great tenderness and humor with stories, dancing and even sound from Thandiwe Shiphrah brought us all to our feet again. Many of us felt that it was simply the most amazing spoken word performance they had ever seen.

Visiting artist Heather Doyle-Maier’s installation, “99 Reasons for Silence” drew enthusiastic response from participants as well as the artwork of Carol Ray Philip, a display of paintings called “Transformations.” Novelist Katherine Towler read us portions of her novel, Evening Ferry, which captivated us and transported us to life on a coastal New England island in the 1960s.

Workshops were plentiful, and included the following rich mix of theory and practice in many forms of transformative language arts:

  • Writing, Healing and Emotional Well-Being: The Theory Behind the Practice – Francis X. Charet – a workshop on theories of writing, expression and emotional disclosure.

  • Opening to Sacred Feminism: Literature and Writing as Doorway for Teenaged Girls – Suzanne Ehst – focusing on tools and approaching for helping teens explore spirituality

  • The Passion of Inanna: Following Her Journey in Participatory Performance – Sharon Mathis – a performance followed by discussion

  • Po*Art*ry – Anne Sheffield — creation of illuminated manuscripts which were then displayed at the conference

  • Empowering Difference Through Story – Meg Gilman – hands-on tools for exploring diversity through storytelling

  • Found Words, Found Intimacy – Nancy Shapiro – drawing on poetry therapy for writing and self-discovery

  • Writing Into the Woods: Ecopoetics Here and Now – Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg & Danielle LaFleur Brooks — a talk, walk and then time to write from the earth

  • Grant-Writing and the Power of Story to Fund the Work You Love – Lynn O’Connell – tools and approaches for grant-writing and storytelling

  • From Art to Word: Natural Transformations – Carol Ray Phillips – Collecting natural found objects to make art and writing

  • Writing on Air: Reaching for Our Dreams – Joannah Merriman – drawing on dreams awake and asleep for writing

  • Transforming Words: An Interdisciplinary Experience of Poetry and Psychology – Jan Hitchcock – Insights on theory behind how poetry can transform

  • Body Poetry: An Exploration of Meaning and Creative Impulse – Traci Childress – A blend of yoga and writing to find meaning

  • Toward An Integral Perspective: Some Things to Consider as We Liberate Ourselves and the World – Reggie Marra – Drawing on Ken Wilbur’s integral theory as it relates to creating art from words

Pre- and Post-conference workshops:

  • Journal to the Self: A Journal Therapy Appetizer – Kathleen Adams, LPC, RPT-MS – a Journal therapy introduction.

  • New Stories, New Lives: The Role of Narrative in Transformative Practice – Jim Sparrell, Ph.D. – New ways to use narrative therapy to make sense of our lives.

  • Beyond Poetry Therapy – Joy Sawyer, RPT – How poetry therapy, and going beyond traditional therapies, can help us make and keep meaning and community.