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Transformative Language Arts Anthologies

Transformative Language Arts in Action
Edited by Ruth Farmer & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Series: It’s Easy to W.R.I.T.E. Expressive Writing, Paperback: 200 pages

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014, Get your copy here.

Transformative Language Arts, an emerging field and profession, calls on us to use writing, storytelling, theater, music, expressive and other arts for social change, personal growth, and culture shift. In this landmark anthology, Transformative Language Artists share their stories, scholarship and practices for a more just and peaceful world, from a Hmong storyteller and spoken word artist weaving traditions with contemporary immigrant challenges in Philadelphia, to a playwright raising awareness of AIDS/HIV prevention. 


The anthology also includes “snapshots,” short features on transformative language artists who make their livings and lives working with people of all ages and backgrounds to speak their truths, and change their communities.

"What these writers have done is nothing short of challenging the stale models of writing to and for other writers, other poets entrenched in the moldy hallways of academia. When writing breaks down the doors, when writing is used to really reach across the dark chasm and speak out, call by name the ghosts that lurk there and invoke one’s own power with fearless defiance, well, then, that is truly writing from the heart, writing that is mapped and charted to define and explore our human experience. That is what this book does, and I applaud the editors, the writers and poets. So impressive is this volume that every high school child and every citizen should have it in their backpacks and book shelves."  ~ Jimmy Santiago Baca, poet and author, A Glass of Water and Singing at the Gates; founder, Cedar Tree, Inc.

"This is as much a testimonial to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit as it is an informative exploration of an emerging field, Transformative Language Arts. A collection of reflections, stories, reports on the work of change agents whose medium is language (whether spoken, written, sung, enacted, or remembered), it shares with us the many ways people are successfully being moved to write, to be heard into speech, and to be liberated into action through the work of these caring professionals." ~ Elizabeth Minnich, professor, Queens University (moral philosophy); author, Transforming Knowledge

"This book is about how words can change lives, and in so doing, change the world. From stories of homeless women finding their voice to the power of song to transform inner life, this is a book that revives the ancient awareness of the dynamic energy of language. What an antidote this book is to the popular media’s silence and silliness in the face of injustice." ~ Barbara Kerr, distinguished professor of counseling psychology and director, CLEOS (Counseling Laboratory for the Exploration of Optimal States), University

The Power of Words:

A Transformative Language Arts Reader

Edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Janet Tallman

TLA Press, 2007, Order through Amazon

This landmark volume, the first of its kind on Transformative Language Arts, features essays by change-makers in expressive arts, narrative medicine, healing storytelling, poetry therapy, social change theater, and eco-writing, including David Abram, Pat Schneider, Shaun McNiff, Christopher Maier, Allison Hedge-Coke, Katt Lissard, Yvette Hyater-Adams, James Sparrell, and Katherine Towler about the power of words to catalyze positive change. The places where this happens are vast and sometimes surprising, including hospitals, schools, community centers,  prisons, rural libraries, and urban restorative justice programs as well as social change theater programs in Lesotho to destigmatize AIDS, the Bread and Puppet Theatre Troupe in Vermont.

Learn more from the preface to The Power of Words:

You tell stories or help others tell stories because you need to, because you know that the story can grow in the listener, and sometimes even the teller, new shoots of understanding, branches of connection, and a canopy of healing. You write because you found that the shortest distance between yourself and where you need to go is across the lines on a page. You do spoken word performance, help others craft community plays, or write and perform songs for the moment you might reach someone. You organize debate for underserved, inner-city youth, conduct anthropological studies of the spoken word, record oral histories for families, or recite poems into the wind because you know there is something that our words hold that can transform the teller and the listener.


This kind of transformation is what a new academic field and emerging profession, Transformative Language Arts, is all about. Transformative Language Arts (TLA) is a meeting ground for those involved in social and personal transformation through the spoken, written and sung word, facilitating work such as storytelling with people in prison, writing workshops for underserved youth, dramatic monologues for elders, or collaborative theatre for community building.

TLA draws perhaps most obviously from literature, creative writing, education, psychology, mythology, and social welfare. TLA looks at the roots of the oral tradition; the pedagogy and psychology involved in effective group facilitation, individual coaching; social change trends and movements related to spoken, written and sung words; and literature and creative writing to create avenues of voice for the voiceless. It also honors the traditions of storytelling, Playback Theatre, poetry therapy, narrative therapy, songwriting for social change, stand-up comedy for diversity, debate and forensics for empowerment, dialogue as a vehicle for drawing diverse voices into civil exchange, healing stories and more.

Kansas Poetry Anthologies

Kansas Time + Place

Edited by Roy Beckemeyer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg


Little Balkins Press, 2017, available here

Cover photography by Stephen Locke

"Explore this collection of Kansas as a place, state of mind, dream and reality, and center of the heartland. In over 230 pages of poetry, this collection brings to readers the best from the website, 150 Kansas Poems. Strongly anchored by wonderful and memorable poems from veteran poets, this anthology shows us the wide range of talent and sensibility of poets currently writing in Kansas." ~ Jeff Worley, author of Driving Late to the Party: The Kansas Poems

"Throughout these poems run the appreciation of silence, reverence for what outsiders perceive as 'nothingness,' and the timelessness of prairie life, its ancient fossils found alongside abandoned demolition derby cars and plastic cups. Memory is a powerful force in Kansas.   In Kansas, there is always another story to tell." ~ Anita Skeen, author of The Unauthorized Audubon

To the Stars Through Difficulties:

A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices

Edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Mammoth Publications, 2012, cover art by Laura Jost

Winner of the Kansas Notable Book Award.

Available through Amazon

Based on the Japanese conversation form of the renga, this 150-part poem brings together poets throughout and beyond Kansas with a connection to this state of mind and geographical mosaic of place. Travel across mythological and physical landscape of Kansas. Each poet begins with the seed of an idea from the poem before, writes, and leads the way for the next poet, all the way to the end.  The poets include descendants of pioneers, lovers of dogs or cats or both, attorneys and people who’ve spent time in jail, old hippies and young activists, mothers and grandfathers, mathematicians and dancers, college professors emeritus and current students. In our poetic conversation, we celebrate Kansas and make community with readers. 

Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems

Edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Woodley Memorial Press, 2011

Available through Amazon and publisher

Cover photography by Stephen Locke

Available through Amazon

The vibrant anthology celebrates the spirit of Kansas in the state’s Susquicentennial year. Exploring how magic can be found in and beyond our own backyards, this anthology journeys into beginnings and endings, dreams and desires, departures and homecomings all rooted in the Kansas land and sky.


Step into this book, and land in poetry that illuminates the extraordinary around us all the time. This book is based upon the 150 poetry project, a blog that also features a 150-part renga written by 150 Kansas poets, plus a poem of the week for many years.

Poet Laureate Anthologies

An Endless Skyway:

Poetry from the States Poet Laureate

Edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Marilyn L. Taylor,

Denise Low & Walter Bargen


Ice Cube Books, 2011, cover photo by Jerry Sipe, available at Ice Cube Press

What do people turn to in times of need? Poetry. In a beautiful world, where we can be left speechless, what do we turn to? Poetry. To know our nation, in both  sickness and in health, turn to this exciting anthology that brings together the poetry of thirty-eight State Poets Laureate from across the United States. It is a collection that explores the poetry of places, but at the same time offers a glimpse into the poetry of our whole  land.

"Each poet adds a unique style to the anthology and a unique slant on what it means to write … this book is  made for everyone to roam and ramble within. Open these pages and enjoy the journey."  ~ Ted Kosser, former US Poet Laureate

The World Keeps Turning to Light:

A Renga by the State Poets Laureate of America

Edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg


Negative Capability Press, 2013, available at Amazon

"Every poem is a conversation with other poems, some more explicitly than others. This version of the Japanese conversational tradition, the renga, rings with the give-and-take of three dozen lively voices, laureates, in the best sense of the word, using their verse to commemorate and celebrate in our name. Here, speaking to one another, they speak to us all about ourselves." ~ J. Kates, poet, translator & executive co-director of Zephyr Press.

Featuring: Walter Bargen (MO), Kevin Stein (IL), Bruce Dethlefsen (WI), Karen Kovacki (IN), Kelly Cherry (VA), Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda (VA), Claudia Emerson (VA), Maureen Morehead (KY), Maggi Britton Vaughn (TN), Marjory Wentworth (SC), Sue Brannan Walker (AL), Julie Kane (LA), JoAnn Balingit (DE), Lisa Starr (RI), Marie Harris (NH), Dick Allen (CT), Maxine Kumin (NH and United States), Walter Butts (NH), Betsy Sholl (ME), Joyce Brinkman (IN),

Norbert Krapf (IN), Marilyn L. Taylor (WI), David Clewell (MO), David Mason (CO), David Romtvedt (WY), Samuel Green (WA), Peggy Shumaker (AK), Kathleen Flenniken (WA), Tom Sexton (AK), Katharine Coles (UT), Larry Woiwode (ND), karla k. morton (TX), Dave Parsons (TX), Alan Birkelbach (TX), Denise Low (KS), and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (KS). Edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

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