We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Shalom and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I actually did everything in my power NOT to pursue an artistic career. While I was drawn toward writing, music and acting as a kid, I was doubly alarmed about the state of the earth and its inhabitants as a direct result of ongoing human choices. I left my parent’s house at 19 to dive into direct action activism on the high seas in various parts of the world as a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, among many other adventures. I was so heavily involved in all kinds of social justice, environmental and animal rights issues that by 23, frontlines activism took its toll and I ended up in hospital completely burnt out and unable to care for myself- let alone save the world. At that point I was faced with little choice than to turn inward. The healing arts allowed me to climb out of a dark hole and to learn to care for myself first. I slowly reconnected with myself and eventually became a certified massage therapist and yoga teacher before beginning my return to the interests that I’d stuffed down, like music, performance and poetry. Recognizing that my attempts to force my plans on what to do with my life hadn’t gotten me too far, I relaxed back and let life show me where it wanted to take me. I was invited to join music bands and to perform poetry on various stages by friends who got to know my private work and who made me into a collaborator. As I eased into the world of the arts, I found myself lit up from the inside, so I went with it, and now I both perform spoken word poetry and teach it as a therapeutic means of self-expression. Today I can’t imagine myself doing anything other than enjoying the ever-exciting road of an artistic life path.
About seven years ago, I created a program called ‘Spoken Wordicine; Your Words are a Powerful Medicine’. This workshop is a means of digging up the stories which lie buried inside and which still carry a charge, massaging them into poetry, into art, and then releasing them into a safe container so as to lighten the load. It’s actually a really playful and fun process, even as we surrender to a deep dive into our often-challenging stories. We use somatic-based tools to generate a felt sense of safety in the body in the here and now to support a journey which may lead us to venture into past hurt. Since the fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death- we definitely meet layers of our resistances, and this is by design. Through a guided process of embodied writing, wordplay, games and rhythmic exercises, participants are invited to meet resistances with awareness, a welcoming spirit and a sense of humor. On the other side of the six-week stretch, we find ourselves more spacious. Lighter. Connected and open on a new level. Maya Angelou says that there is no burden greater than the agony of an untold story. We own our stories so that our stories no longer own us. I facilitate the program online for adults and in schools, conferences, retreats and various settings.
I also created SWUPS- the Spoken Wordicine Underground Poets society, available only to graduates of Spoken Wordicine. SWUPS is a three-monthlong deep dive into the journey of authentic expression through poetry, and it’s really the most satisfying work I can imagine.
I can never get enough Malibu’s misty majesty. There’s a few little caves I like to go and sit in which can only be accessed during low tide that are great for conversing with the ocean before warming up at Rafi’s Lounge. I love the Self-Realization Fellowship gardens, Franklin Canyon, hiking in Topanga, rollerblading along the Venice boardwalk and camping outside the city. I enjoy Chocolate Sundaes at the Laugh Factory, shows at the Hollywood Bowl, yoga at Hallowed Ground or a good dive bar jukebox. I also stay in Marin as often as possible. I mostly like to be where serenity lives. The cliche thing for a poet is to be constantly immersed in destructive chaos and tortured agony. It’s true that pain is forever a devoted muse and injustice inevitably wants to be addressed. There’s plenty of that to explore. And. I’m more into investigating the contours of peace these days, whether alone or with others. So I make it my mission to seek out physical locations that make a spacious quality of being an easy access point. Quietness and ease are not as exciting as explorations of the gut wrenching, but there is an earned appreciation for the deeper levels that lie beyond drama addiction. Contentment usually comes easily out in nature. And writing from this place transmits the kind of imprint that is probably pretty beneficial at this time, so it works out.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Maya Angelou, Rumi, Hafiz, James Baldwin and Khalil Gibran are all poets and writers who speak sanity and heart into chaos. Their words are like oases where I seek refuge when I need to remember. My mom is a great story teller, and my dad and grandfather wrote for a living as well. My dad is a retired journalist and my grandfather was a philosophy professor who wrote books on the Ultimate Reality. They definitely taught me to use my words. Shout out to the poets, artists, sensitives and oddball kindreds of the world.
The last image of everyone on stage in white is by Jean- Marc Beaudoin. I have permission to use it.