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  • July 11th, 2011 | 5:32 PM
Session #3 Incarcerated Teens Poetry Class

Today was the third of twelve sessions teaching poetry to a group of incarcerated teenage girls.

We had a full class but a substitute teacher. He seemed to really get into the spirit of poetry which I think made the session more fun for the girls. There were two girls absent on Friday. I had left them each a note with copies of the poems I had shared and the two poetry assignments for the day. I really didn't expect them to do the work but both turned in not one but two long poems. I was quite pleased.

Before we got started the girl who's poem caused such a reaction on Friday handed me a copy of her poem. She hadn't put it in her folder on Friday saying that she wanted to recopy it. I didn't expect to see it again. I thought that after she had written it and allowed it to be shared that she wanted to keep it to herself so I was surprised and pleased when she gave me the copy. But I was floored when a couple of the girls asked me read it again. I did and once more, just like on Friday, they clapped and cheered for the author. It was a great start to the day and, I think, a huge boost to the author.

The word they picked for today was "beauty."  Here's their group poem.

BEAUTY

Beauty sounds like little birds chirping in the morning and an angel playing a harp. It sounds like a waterfall, like the ocean waves hitting the rocks at the crack of dawn.

It tastes like a sweet strawberry dipped in chocolate, honey on your morning toast, an orange, chocolate turtles, a caramel apple. Beauty can also be bitter as a lemon.

Beauty feels like a baby's bottom, gentle as rose petals, soft as silk.

It smells clean,like a fabric softener sheet, like a red rose, like Cherry Blossom perfume at Victoria's Secret, like fresh cut lawn after the rain.

Beauty is graceful like a princess dancing at the ball. It looks like the setting sun, stars twinkling near the moon, a swan floating on a sparkling lake, city light.

Beauty looks like me.


After the group poem they each did a short writing on the topic of beauty. Unlike the boys, there's no grumbling about not wanting to write (even though they know that's why I'm there.) There's one girl who wears a perpetual scowl and rarely writes more than two lines, no matter what the topic. She never feels good and is always in a bad mood. I can sense a world of hurting going on behind her eyes. I just keep opening poetry doors and hope that one of them will click for her.

There are two girls who have slightly unusual names and I continue to struggle with the pronunciation. It is frustrating to both of us when I mess one of them up.

Next we talked about how people judge them, brainstorming various ways of being judged on the board. Then they wrote about how they felt the world saw them. It might have been too soon for this prompt. I don't know. Two of the seven didn't write anything. The others all wrote about how they didn't care what other people thought about them. By the third poem being read I got the feeling they were spouting back something they thought I wanted to hear, something they had talked about it sessions with their counselor. There were original thoughts in the poems but a lot of stuff that I think came from the therapy process this system uses. I'll have to rethink how I introduce this to perhaps get a better response. One girl chose to write about her uncle instead of herself and did a great job. I think the two girls who chose not to write had a lot to say but weren't quite brave enough yet to put it down on paper.

After that we talked about who they really were, who they would see when they looked in the mirror, who they wanted the world to see. The response was about the same. This was one of those exercises that didn't go over as well as I had hoped.

I'm finding that lessons that fell flat with the boys work well with the girls and vice versa.

We talked about list poems and did an example of one on the board then talked about how we could expand the list and enrich the poem.

They also did a group Acrostic on the word POEM

Power within
Overcoming struggles only I understand
Emotions come out
Memories last forever

I finished with reading some more from Hugging the Rock. They are all hoping the mother comes back and I think we'll have the potential for some interesting discussion by the time we get to the end of the book. Even though I had told them that I had written the book and talked about some of my experiences while writing the book, for some reason today it clicked with them, that it was my name on the cover. They appeared to be a wee bit impressed. (The substitute teachers was a lot impressed.)

Before I left, four girls asked if they could pick a prompt card to write an extra poem before Wednesday.

Write more poetry on your own time? Of course I said yes. :)


Read about session #1

Read about session #2
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.



Comments

( 4 comments — Leave comment )
(Deleted comment)
susanwrites
July 12th, 2011 05:42 am (UTC)
This one group of girls is together 24/7. Same teacher all day. Same rotating probation officers. They all room in the same dorms. So the opportunity is there but if they will or not, I don't know. They aren't given much down time either. At this point everything is pretty regimented.
jeannineatkins
July 12th, 2011 11:59 am (UTC)
Interesting that prompts that work well for the guys with the girls not so much and vice versa.

A lot to love here. Neat some clicked that's your name on the cover. And some asked to write more on their own, great finale!
susanwrites
July 14th, 2011 06:01 am (UTC)
It's really odd to me how some stuff seems to work so much better for the different groups. A great day Wednesday followed up by a not-so-great one today.
( 4 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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