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  • June 11th, 2010 | 12:11 AM
Poetry Friday - Poems by incarcerated teens

It's Poetry Friday! And I'm trying to jump back on (and stay on) the Poetry bandwagon. I don't know why it's so tough for me except that I am in short supply of confidence in the poetry department so it always makes me hesitate and then, usually, the time has passed.

Tonight I realized I'd never posted more poems from my incarcerated teen poetry project. The past month their work has been on display at the deSaisset museum at Santa Clara university as part of the ArtsConnect program sponsored by Arts Council Silicon Valley. Below are the displays they made with their poems (kind of a 3D effect). The backgrounds are a combination of paint and collage. You can click on each photo (they are all different) to see the larger version which makes the rest of the poems legible but I've put a few here in the post as well.

It's so very hard to get teenage boys to dig deep about the emotional stuff in their lives. Compound that by trying to get boys who are locked up, away from their family, their girlfriends, and in some cases, their children, and asking them to write about their feelings is rarely embraced. And yet that's just what these boys did. Session after session they wrote their hearts out for me.

For those of you who don't know about the project, there is a list of links at the bottom of the post to tell you a bit more.

Now, the student work.

From Arts Connect 2010

I’m the aspirin always getting taken from the medicine box
Trying to fix for a minute but it never lasts too long
I wanna be like a giraffe with my head about it all
I’m at the top of the ladder where I can never fall
I’m an eagle, a leader, I soar through the sky
I don’t play with the pigeons because their mind is not right
I’m caged like an animal but want to be set free
I’m a lion in the jungle I run my domain
Reality hits
I’m Daniel
an 18 year old looking forward to tomorrow

~~~ Daniel

From Arts Connect 2010

I’m a strong individual
Power so strong, the guy who couldn’t get visible
People get a visual
See, but they don’t,cause my life is invisible
Do what I want and times can get critical
Powers so strong, it feels like life is a miracle
but still
I’m invisible

      ~~~ Rudy

From Arts Connect 2010

I feel motivated to strive
And eat cuz I’m hungry,
I feel like a dodgeball
Being thrown around
I’m feeling sleepy
And language can’t explain
The unhappy thoughts in my  mind
I want forgiveness
And to wake up to a better day


From Arts Connect 2010

I’m like the devil in disguise
I sound like bombs going off in a city, like death to a man
I look nice but inside I’m crazy in the mind
I smell like gun powder, evil in its darkest form
I taste bitter and sour, like snakes venom and nothing more.
I’m nothing nice

~~~ Sergio

Kelly Polark has the Poetry Friday round-up today. Check out some of the other great posts.

*** For those of you who missed the series of posts about my 10 sessions teaching poetry to incarcerated young men, you can read them all here, in order:
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 14 comments — Leave comment )
June 11th, 2010 10:07 am (UTC)
thanks for the work you do
Susan, you must build up a deep trust with these kids. I liked Daniel's line about being a giraffe with his head above it all.

Laura @AuthorAmok
June 11th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks for the work you do
Thank you, Laura. This group gave themselves to me so quickly, I was very fortunate. Best group I've had in years.
June 11th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
Those are incredible.
June 11th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jo. I know you know, from your own work with inmates, how very difficult yet rewarding this type of work can be. And heartbreaking.
June 11th, 2010 11:57 am (UTC)
The contrast between Sergio's two poems just about breaks my heart.
June 11th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that kid is a study in contrasts. When I saw him at the reception at the museum he told me he was changing his ways but I'm not so sure. I'll see him again next week when I take the artwork back to the class...we'll see how he is then.
June 11th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
This was such an awesome project.

Half of them have that strong rap-style rhyme and rhythm to them... just so lyrical in how they put the words to paper.

But getting them to use those words to open up, to communicate-- that's a lasting legacy that you gave those guys.
June 11th, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Kate. Yes, much of their work started off rap-like and then evolved into something more lyrical. These guys really peeled back their skins for me.
June 11th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Wow. Just wow.
June 11th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Lisa.
June 11th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Reading these poems made me think of my own two boys and how often they snuggled up to me when they were little and talked about whatever had happened during the day, how they felt, what they were hoping for or dreaming about, why they were scared or happy. I got to do the same with my parents. We are very, very lucky people ff we grow up surrounded by love, safe....and reading some of the thoughts of these kids just breaks my heart. But you're doing good work, encouraging them to play with language and to open up about their feelings. Thanks!
June 11th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
Didn't mean to post anonymously - that was me!
June 12th, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
June 13th, 2010 02:21 am (UTC)
These are amazing. What a wonderful way to convey their feelings.
( 14 comments — Leave comment )

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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