Acting Program Director, Faculty, The Graduate Institute
Residency Site: Plainfield VT
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-2013 Poet Laureate of Kansas and author of 19 books, including collections of poetry, memoir, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust, and several anthologies. She leads community writing workshops focused on healing, making and keeping community, and connecting with the earth. With singer Kelley Hunt, she leads Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. She has presented readings, talks and workshops throughout the U.S. and in Canada and Mexico.
PhD in English, University of Kansas
MA in Creative Writing, University of Kansas
BA in History, University of Missouri
Areas of Expertise
Transformative Language Arts, Bioregionalism, Right Livelihood, Contemporary Poetry, Ecofeminism, the Holocaust, Memoir, Expressive Arts, Writing Through Illness, Consensus-Based Group Process, Grassroots Organizing
All my life, I’ve been at home most among trees, fields and skies, and I’ve been in love with the wind. I take my cue from the earth, and specific to where I live, the tall-grass prairies of Kansas (a great place to be immersed in wind), and the understanding that our vitality is interwoven with the earth’s. As a long-time bioregionalist, writer, workshop facilitator, collaborative artist, grassroots community organizer, and teacher, I find my work often involves creating and holding loving places for people to gather, find courage, and trek into the wilds of their lives. I believe in committing fully to our places and passions, learning from the materials life gives us, and continually cultivating spaciousness in our hearts, minds, bodies and communities.
I’m drawn to writing and storytelling as an ecological and spiritual practice, and also to how writing, singing and storytelling can reweave community by breaking the silences that hide us from each other. I write through the blank or overflowing page, through what we know to what we don’t know. I know what my students and workshop participants know all through my body: writing is hard and holy, mysterious and ecstatic, puts us on and over the edge. Most of all, through the arts, we can come home to who we are.
My inner-Goddard is accompanied by fine companion-work: I’m a long-time writer (and the 2009-2013 Kansas Poet Laureate), and a free-lance workshop facilitator, speaker and scholar. I write in a menagerie of genres — memoir, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, songs, blog posts — and often about the confluence of body, earth and sky, healing, community, story and time. I give frequent readings, workshops and talks, and collaborative performances with other artists. I facilitate writing workshops for many populations, especially for people living with cancer and other serious illness, and I’m a roving scholar for the Kansas Humanities Council. I also write songs, perform collaboratively, and run a small, arts-based business with rhythm and blues singer Kelley Hunt.
Although I began my life in Coney Island, after being raised by a pack of Jewish raccoons near the Jersey shore, I followed I-70 west to Lawrence, Kansas, a fierce and gentle place where men stroll downtown in chartreuse evening gowns, friends make giant teapots on wheels for parades, we debate how to deal with extreme right-wing state politics and still love our state, artists decorate their gardens with festively-painted bowling balls, and lilac, the local foods movement and basketball abound. I’m a founding member of the Transformative Language Arts Council, and also the founder of Transformative Language Arts, a Goddard College master’s program in social and individual transformation through the written, sung and spoken word. I have extensive training in facilitation; certified poetry therapist; certified yoga teacher, registered with the Yoga Alliance (and certified in Curvy Yoga); certified in grassroots organizing by the Midwest Academy.
I love working with students who are drawn to the question of how to live. I’m a lifelong students of these fields/traditions:
- Bioregionalism: How can and does place inform identity, life calling, community-making and simply feeling utterly alive? I’ve been a bioregional organizer and writer for 30 years, and I’m one of the founders of the continental bioregional congresses and of the Kansas Area Watershed Council, our local bioregional group we started in 1982.
- Right Livelihood (the Buddhist term of making a living in ways that serve community and calling): How do we know what to do with our lives, and related to this, how to best start, grow and sustain organizations, businesses, and communities? I also love the nuts and bolts of it all (from marketing without selling your soul to conversing with your calling), and give frequent workshops on various aspects of finding, making and sustaining our right livelihood.
- Group Process/Organizational Development: How do we live, work and create with each other? I’ve studied Quaker-style facilitation, discernment, and group process, and with my husband Ken Lassman, I regularly lead trainings and consult with organizations and cooperative businesses on better meetings, working with conflict, and strengthening community.
- Grassroots, Community Organizing: How do we make real and sustainable change? I’ve worked for years as an organizer, first working with coalitions of labor unions, community groups and social service agencies, and lately with bioregional groups and local issues.
- Expressive, Integrated & Collaborative Arts: How can making something be a way of healing and knowing? I’m fascinated with the power of the arts (including yoga) to help us wake up to the lives we’re given, and also the big question of what it means to facilitate someone else’s transformative artistic process. As founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, I’ve worked collaboratively with many students, faculty and alumni in growing the field of transformation through the written, spoken and sung word.
- Spiritual/Religious Practices: What is faith, and where do we each locate and sustain our own? As a Jew with Buddhist leanings who teaches yoga in the bible belt and resonates with animism, I’m interested in how culture, experience and mystery shape such beliefs, knowledge, and ways of knowing.
I share my home with a small herd of men as well as a chocolate labaraner who eats everything, old labmation who loves everyone, kitty who demands all, and deer, coyotes, occasional cougars, many spiders, compost-eating crows, one or two owls making harmonics at night, and a very big sky full of endless entertainment.
Books & Recordings: The Divorce Girl (a novel, Ice Cube Press); Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other (non-fiction, Potomac Press); To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices (editor, Mammoth Publications); An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, co-edited with Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Low and Walter Bargen; Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems (Woodley Press, editor); The Sky Begins at Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community & Coming Home to the Body (bioregional memoir, Ice Cube Press); four volumes of poetry: Landed, Animals in the House, Reading the Body; Write Where You Are: How to Use Writing to Make Sense of Your Life (Free Spirit Press), Sandra Cisneros: Activist and Writer (Enslow Press), A Circle of Women, A Circle of Words (editor, Mammoth Publications) and several other books. Songwriter listed with B.M.I., music recorded on Kelley Hunt’s CDs Gravity Loves You and Mercy.
- Transformative Language Arts in Action (Edited with Ruth Farmer)Rowan and Littlefield2014
- Poem on the Range: A Poet Laureate’s Love Song to KansasCoal City Press2014
- To the Stars, Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices (Editor)Mammoth2012
- The World Keeps Turning To Light: A Renga by the State Poets Laureate of America (Editor)Negative Capability Press2012
- An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate (Edited with Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Low and Walter Bargen)Ice Cube Books2011
- Landed: New PoetryMammoth Publications2009