The Pongo Teen Writing Project, in Seattle, Washington, inspires incarcerated youth and offers guidelines on working with them. Founded by Richard Gold, the Project offers support through poetry for youth in detention centers, to help them articulate their emotions and instill hope. The website offers numerous free writing prompts for teens with some guidelines for delivery and starting your own program for troubled youth.
Click here to access the free writing prompts.
Click here to view an inspiring PBS segment, the end of which shows readings and interviews with several youth.
Quotes from the video from youth answering the question of why poetry enabled them to say what they needed to say:
“The things that would normally sound disgusting all of a sudden sound beautiful…empowering instead of feeling ashamed.”
“You are just taking a negative force and turning it into a positive thing.”
I can take all this negative energy I feel inside myself that I would normally bottle up. Eventually, it’s going to reach a breaking point no matter what in my opinion. And I just turn it into like literal art.
“I looked forward to going to Pongo when I was younger. I could just speak whatever was happening. I was living in group care at the time. You aren’t allowed to say whatever you want on the floor – like you will get sent to your room. Just to be able to scream, cry, curse, laugh, chant whatever I needed to do and then I wrote it all down and they gave you the power to take out or put in or whatever you want. For me that was the ultimate empowerment.”