TLA Network's 2021 Power of Words Conference: Transformation, Liberation, & Celebration Through the Spoken, Written, & Sung Word
October 28 - 31, 2021
We are thrilled to feature Joy Harjo, the U.S. Poet Laureate, as one of our keynote presenters. She is joined as keynote by three brilliant young poet/artist/activists: Lyla June, Caits Meissner, and Javier Zamora.
This year's Power of Words Conference will feature keynote presentations, more than 30 workshops, panel discussions, performances, celebration, and more. Click to see the full schedule summary. The conference will be online, with the goal of offering an event that is safe, affordable and accessible to our community - especially during this most challenging time. The conference will bring together writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, community leaders, activists, educators, health professionals, and more.
Friday's Pre-Conference is open to all Conference attendees for an additional fee. The Pre-Conference will feature workshops and a panel discussion with the four keynotes.
The Power of Words Conference:
Includes more than two dozen workshops, keynote presentations by Lyla June, Javier Zamora, and Caits Meissner, plus a reading/performance with Joy Harjo.
Power of Words Pre-Conference:
Includes keynote workshops plus a panel discussion with the four keynotes.
Please note: the Pre-Conference is available for an additional fee and is open to all who are registered for the full weekend conference.
Join the TLA Network as a member to save on the conference now, and on classes and other offerings later.
Immerse yourself in workshops, celebrations, open mics, and fierce beauty among more than two dozen presenters + four keynotes -- poets, storytellers, writers, performers, activists, educators, healers, and more.
The conference, founded in 2003, features workshops in five tracks: narrative medicine; social change; right livelihood (and making a living through the arts); ecological literacy, and engaged spirituality.
This year, due to the pandemic, we will meet online, via Zoom.
As always, we prioritize the health, safety, and economic well-being of our community, and look forward to gathering in person in 2022!
We are thrilled to be featuring Joy Harjo, the U.S. Poet Laureate, as one of our keynote presenters. In 2020, Joy Harjo was appointed to serve for a second term as the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is an internationally known award-winning poet, writer, performer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. Grammy award winning saxophonist Paul Winter says, “Joy Harjo is a poet of music just as she is a poet of words.”
Her nine books of poetry include An American Sunrise, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, and She Had Some Horses. Harjo’s memoir Crazy Brave won several awards, including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award.
She is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for proven mastery in the art of poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She has five award-winning CDs of music including the award-winning album Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears and Winding Through the Milky Way, which won a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. Harjo’s latest is a book of poetry from Norton, An American Sunrise. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Lyla June is an Indigenous environmental scientist, doctoral student, educator, community organizer and musician of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages.
Her dynamic, multi-genre performance style has enagaged audiences across the globe towards personal, collective and ecological healing. She blends studies in Human Ecology at Stanford, graduate work in Indigenous Pedagogy, and the traditional worldview she grew up with to inform her music, perspectives, and solutions. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree, focusing on Indigenous food systems revitalization.
Caits Meissner is the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let It Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016). Her latest projects include the DIY comix poetry zine Pep Talks For Broke(n) People and a comix vignette series, New York Strange, publishing monthly in Hobart journal throughout 2020. Invested in the transformative, restorative, and change-making capacities of imagination and creativity, Caits' has an extensive history in community arts work. She has facilitated, consulted, and co-created for 15 years across a vast spectrum of communities, with a special focus on imprisoned people, women, and youth. Currently, Caits is the inaugural Palette Poetry Second Book Fellow and spends her days as the Prison and Justice Writing Program Director at PEN America. Caits lives and works in New York City.
Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States in 1999 when he was nine—travelling unaccompanied 4,000 miles, across multiple borders, from El Salvador to the US to be reunited with his parents. Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), his first poetry collection, explores how immigration and civil war have impacted his life and family. This collection won the 2018 North California Book Award, the 2018 Firecracker Award, and was a finalist for the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He is also the author of the chapbook Nueve Años Inmigrantes/Nine Immigrant Years, which won the 2011 Organic Weapon Arts contest.
In a 2014 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts Works Blog, Zamora states, “I think in the United States we forget that writing and carrying that banner of ‘being a poet’ is tied into a long history of people that have literally risked [their lives] and died to write those words.” After selecting Javier as winner of the 2017 Narrative Prize, co-founder and editor Tom Jenks said: “In sinuous plainsong that evokes the combined strengths, the bright celebrations, and the dark sorrows of two Americas sharing and transcending borders, Javier Zamora’s verse affirms human commonality and aspiration.”
Zamora holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied and taught in June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program and earned an MFA from New York University. His poems have been featured in Granta, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New York Times, and many others. Zamora has received many honors, including a 2015 NEA fellowship, the 2016 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, and the 2017 Narrative Prize. In 2016, Barnes & Noble granted the Undocupoets, of which he’s a founding member, the Writer for Writers Award for working to promote undocumented or previously undocumented writers. Most recently he was a 2018-2019 Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, where he was working on his memoir and second collection of poems. He lives in Harlem, NY.
Testimonials from Past Conferences
"Come and meet some seriously interesting and diverse people with a love of transformational politics, poetry and language. I loved the whole experience!"
"I always appreciate the comraderie at this event. People are non-judgemental and open. I don’t think it would be possible to feel more accepted or at peace. This truly satisfies and transcends the human experience by combining heart with art."
"The Transformation Language Arts conference provides a home for artists, writers and musicians who want to help create a peaceful world. I go to learn, I go to contribute, I go to sustain hope."
"As an artist and philanthropist who participates in artistic/humanities conference and festivals throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Middle East - I'm very impressed with this conference! The workshop and performance presenters were diverse; audience participants supportive; key note speakers memorable; staff magnificent. A genuine pleasure to be in attendance!"
"The TLA Conference is an adventure of diving into a deep pool of unexpected discoveries. Some are delightful and awe-inspiring, some frightening and strange, but the immersion in diversity and the authenticity of the presenter's (and participant's) stories and presence is palpable and real. A necessary reminder of what we are so starved for in the current climate of media and political rhetoric. If change is going to be sustainable and humane, we need more people trained and working with the qualities of these warriors. The Conference is a way to either dip a toe in or dive in head first."
— Robin Russell
"The Power of Words Conference...in the midst of the unpredictability of daily life, for a few precious days I found myself surrounded by beauty, reminded yet again how art and wordcraft are not luxuries, to paraphrase Audre Lorde, but tools for survival, 'sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas.'
We think and language into existence, whether our language takes the shape of words, images, sounds, or movements, summoning new worlds with our breath and our bodies. And as we come together to share we move away from isolation and fear and into one another, drawing close to the hearth where we warm and nourish ourselves before heading back out.
This is the power of words -- that something so fragile, awkward, limited and limiting can, in the end, still be a way in: a key in a lock, a warm breeze signaling an end to winter's slumber, a torch to light the way."