Denise Lanier

I am an educator & advocate, poet & performer, speaker & storyteller, who believes in the power of narrative to transform & transport, create & connect. I was the shy, awkward girl who didn't fit in, was often bullied, happiest with my nose in books, whose best friend was my dog. After being cast in a play in my teens I discovered a way to be comfortable in my own skin. Costumed in make-believe, I dared to be more of myself than I ever allowed off-stage; I claimed my voice. Most of my adult life has been spent teaching others to raise their own voices, through acting, creative writing & slam poetry. When the diagnosis of MS intervened in my 30s I let go of acting. Most of my storytelling is now expressed on the page & through less "formal" interactions with stages. I devote much of my time to kids, teaching them to use words & imagination, to develop authentic, resilient, remarkable voices. I endeavor to grow in my students the belief, the truth, that we are all artists & the change-makers in our own stories.

My best friend still has fur & four legs. My mobility assistance dog is my constant companion, teaching assistant & muse to many. Luke is also chief partner in crime; I'm getting a reputation for stealing things. As inventor of a poetic form called klepto-collaborative, I pickpocket words & phrases from others, reshuffling & reshaping the puzzle-pieces into a colorful, storied mosaic of diverse voices. Taking something from every speaker at a conference in real-time, I craft a collective poem that highlights messages of the day, repurposing ideas & refashioning stories, weaving them together in a manner that never loses the originality & spirit of the speakers' themes. So while I may be a word thief, I figure being eco-conscious makes up for it.

I'm available to facilitate wordy goodness in your community, school, workplace or play space. I promise to transform the ordinary into something interactive, cooperative & memorable--using poetic twists & turns of storytelling to delight, ignite conversation, maybe even incite innovation. I earned an MFA from Florida International University, where I edited Gulf Stream Literary Magazine. I'm the founder of WordPlay, a poetry-in-the-schools project inspired by Dave Eggers. My writing has appeared in Bloomsbury Review, Best American Poetry blog & Miami Herald.