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2021 Power of Words Conference

  • 28 October 2021
  • (EDT)
  • 31 October 2021
  • (EDT)
  • Online

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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 workshops, panel discussions with our keynotes, performances, celebration, and more. The conference will be online, with the goal of offering an event that is both affordable and accessible to our community - especially after this long and most challenging year. The conference will bring together writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, community leaders, activists, educators, and health professionals. 

The conference registration fee includes access to all events, workshops and lectures throughout the conferenceThe Power of Words main conference runs Friday, October 29, 4 PM EST, through Sunday, October 31, 2 PM EST.

The Power of Words pre-conference runs 9-3 PM EST on Friday, October 29, and consists of workshops with each of the four keynotes. There is an additional fee to attend the pre-conference (see the registration form for details).

Join the TLA Network today as member to save on the conference now and on classes and other offerings later.


2021 Keynotes

Joy Harjo

We are thrilled to feature 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.” 

Harjo's 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.

Joy Harjo 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, Harjo was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. A renowned musician, she 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

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

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

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.

"The Transformative Language Arts Network" is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. P.O. Box 873 Lansdowne, PA 19050 USA

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