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  • May 8th, 2009 | 2:43 PM
Poetry Friday - Art Empowers our youth

A few months ago I had the chance to teach poetry to a group of incarcerated teens. (Read about that experience)

Today was the reception and opening of the display of the student work at the de Saisset museum at Santa Clara university. The program, Arts Connect, is sponsored by the Arts Council Silicon Valley and connects local artists with at-risk youth hopefully showing them how art can empower them to make changes in their lives.

This is the display of their group poem and self-portraits.




This is the entire display with their individual poems surrounding their group poem.



I am reposting their poem for Poetry Friday because I am so proud of them, of the work they did and I am so happy to have been a part of this program in what could be the very last year. There has been a sudden push to cut the budget for this program.

Poetry
has a beautiful life to it.


You sound like happiness, sadness, love
taste like fresh strawberries
and feel like soft skin, sandpaper, a brick wall.


Poetry is all the colors of the rainbow
and smells like freedom, incarceration, a sexy girl.


Oh poetry, you drive me crazy.

You make me want to scream, to feel, to heal.

You look like sunshine and moonlight in the city.

Poetry is feelings on paper.


I have been asked to join the Arts Council at the Board of Supervisors meeting next week in order to help convince the board of the importance of this program. I will have one minute to speak on behalf of the Arts Connect program and the impact I was able to make with the challenged youth in my class.

It is I who will be challenged.

How do you capture, in just one minute, the sight of a boy pouring his heart out on the page with no one standing over him telling him he is dumb for doing it? How do you show someone the pride of a young man standing up to read his poem to the class, a poem that exposes the deepest hurting part of himself? How do you tell an audience that the simple act of me showing up every session, no matter what they said or did or tried to do to push me away, that my showing up showed them that someone cared which meant that they were worth caring about, worth saving?

How do I show them the heart of these boys who had never written poetry before, who tried so hard at something so new, and who succeeded beyond my expectations?

What would you say if you had one minute to prove the importance, the impact of art on at-risk youth?





 

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.



Comments

( 33 comments — Leave comment )
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(Anonymous)
May 9th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
All you would have to do is read that one paragraph you have there it is so powerful.
So much about showing them that there is someone who cares in their lives.
How important their contribution is to you and everyone else.
The only way you can achieve that is if the program was allowed to continue.

- Anne McKenna
kidlit_kim
May 9th, 2009 04:57 pm (UTC)
That's exactly what I was going to say! You said it so well already, Susan! Great work on this project!
(no subject) - susanwrites - May 10th, 2009 03:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - susanwrites - May 10th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
May 9th, 2009 10:34 am (UTC)
In one minute
First, I would pause. I would look each of them in the eye.

I would announce "Here are some lines from the group poem, written by X (eg nine, ten etc) incarcerated teens." Then I would read some lines from the group poem, maybe lines 1, 4 and 5.

I would put the paper down, and look at them again, and say,"How do you capture, in just one minute, the sight of a boy pouring his heart out on the page with no one standing over him telling him he is dumb for doing it? How do you show someone the pride of a young man standing up to read his poem to the class, a poem that exposes the deepest hurting part of himself? How do I explain to you that the simple act of me showing up every session, no matter what they said or did or tried to do to push me away, showed these young men that they were worth caring about, worth saving?"

But being an old trouper, I would practise and time myself first!

Best of luck!
Book Chook
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:18 am (UTC)
Re: In one minute
Thank you! And yes, I am gong to be practicing like crazy. I time that paragraph and right now I'm at 45 seconds. I figure I'll speed up some from the adrenalin and that will shave 5 seconds so I have 15-20 seconds left. Working on a dynamite last line.
(Deleted comment)
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
Thank you Melodye. I so want this to be able to continue.
marybethkelsey
May 9th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)
I was going to say the exact same thing as prior posters!! I would read some of the most poignant lines/verses from their poems, and then that lovely paragraph beginning with: How do you capture, in just one minute, the sight of a boy pouring his heart out . . .

That is a powerful, beautifully stated argument, Susan.

Good luck.

x0x0x
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
Thanks Mary Beth! I'm looking for that powerful last line to tie it all together.
slatts
May 9th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
my post has no answer...
...all I have to say is: "looks cool!"
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
Re: my post has no answer...
Thanks. Next time I have to figure out how to attach things better. I tried removable double-stick tape but it kept coming off.
mirtlemist
May 9th, 2009 01:04 pm (UTC)
Ditto what everyone else said! You already captured it. What you wrote was very powerful. Are you allowed to take in a posterboard like the one presented above? That also has visual impact.
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
I don't know that we will get it released from the museum or if it is allowed but they took pictures of it on display and are bringing those.
amygreenfield
May 9th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
You're doing such wonderful things in this world! Their words -- and yours -- are so strong, so beautiful. If I could vote twice for you, I would.

And yes: If you could bring in the posterboard (or a slide of it) I think it would have a tremendous impact.
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for your kind words and the support. Yes, we will have a display there too.
d_michiko_f
May 9th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
Beautiful! Good luck at the meeting. One minute? EEP! xoxo
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
Yeah, one minute. And me who loves to talk so much. LOL
(Anonymous)
May 9th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
Art for at-risk kids
Here is some information that might help provide more information on the success of programs for at-risk kids:

The Los Angeles Times has an article today in the Saturday, May 9 paper about students making art influenced by Andy Warhol. The student art can be seen at this website: latimes.com/arts

The organization running an exhibition of the art is:
www.pharmarka-art.org

Francie
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
Re: Art for at-risk kids
Thanks, Francie. I appreciate the tip. I'll go check it out.
(Anonymous)
May 9th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
I would say that writing is an outlet for emotions and that since the kids have been in the program they have learned to channel their emotions into their poetry. They have learned that violence is not an answer to solve their problems and they have also learned to work with both themselves and an authority figure in a non-threatening environment. When someone produces a work of art, the finished product gives them a sense of accomplishment they might not feel with any other situation. It is their creativity and their work that has produced this product. Seeing it in print shows them that they can have something special that is all theirs. This creates confidence and confidence creates a better self-image. Isn't this the goal of any program for at-risk students?

That's what I would say.:) I hope this helps you. I know this program has been an important step for these kids. It would be a shame if the funding were removed.

Barbara Ehrentreu
Literacy Specialist
http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com/
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
Thank you Barbara. I was hoping you would weigh in. It is so important that these types of programs continue.
lcovella
May 9th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
Incerated poetry
I agree-what you wrote hear is perfect, Susan!
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
Re: Incerated poetry
Thanks, Linda.
jessica_shea
May 9th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
Good luck, Susan! I think the work is indescribably important. A good friend of mine works with incarcerated youth in Baltimore, and I know from her stories how difficult and heartbreaking and rewarding it can be, and I admire you both so much!
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
Thank you, Jessica. It is hard and heartbreaking and yet I really enjoy it.
(Anonymous)
May 10th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Poetry Friday
How can anyone turn a blind eye to the power of this poetry and what it represents.

"Show - don't tell." I know you can prove that these types of programs are essential!

All the best!

Mary Cunningham
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
Re: Poetry Friday
Thanks. Here's hoping we can convince them.
(Deleted comment)
susanwrites
May 10th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC)
Unfortunately my group I worked with was in a maximum security unit and unable to attend the reception. However I've taken pictures to take over and show them.
boreal_owl
May 10th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
Good luck!
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( 33 comments — Leave comment )
WHO AM I?



Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.






Susan Taylor Brown

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