Friday was the second session of the new Incarcerated teens poetry class.

As in every group or class there are some that love to talk and some that want to be invisible. This session I wanted to introduce comparisons. As always when I get to something semi-technical or with any sort of rules to follow, I lose confidence in myself. I don’t really know how to counter that except to keep on doing it.

I read some from The Book of Qualities and shared some examples but I think I need to build up my stash of examples. I also think just me talking for too long is boring to them so I really want to get them writing as soon as possible yet I struggle with not talking enough. I only have them for an hour though. I wish I had had some formal teacher training to help me with this sort of thing. I also think I need to come up with some more group poetry exercises we can do together at the board. It helps gets things flowing.

They’re a talkative group. Or some of them are. Some of them, of course, would like to melt into the seat and not have to talk at all. They’re good about standing up and reading what they’ve written and mostly good about encouraging each other. It’s interesting to watch the emotions go back and forth between them and imagine who might be on opposite sides of an imaginary line when they leave the classroom. Because they are so articulate I really have high expectations for their work yet I know that it is up to me to find the way to pull their words out of them and get them to put them on the page.

From comparisons we talked a little bit about the senses and how to use them in our poetry. Then I asked them to take the word they chose for themselves the first day and describe it with the five senses. They asked for an example and I did a quick one on the board for them with the word I chose that first day.

When they finished their sensory pieces we went straight to some art because I knew this first piece would take some time. We made little accordion books so that they can put one word on each page. The idea is that they pick a word each time I go in there. Then they can decorate the book and I’ll laminate it with packing tape and they will have it to take with them. It’s small enough to fit in their pocket.

Most of them did okay making the book. One kid worked ahead and cut something he shouldn’t have. Another feels like he has done all this before so he doesn’t have to do it again. He challenges everything as though he’s 100 years old and done everything there is worth doing in the world. Another student is writing a book of his own and asked me questions about how to approach publishers. I think he is going to have publishing questions for me at every visit.

I can’t tell if they liked the idea or even “get” the idea but they did it. One mistake I think I made is that I told them they could keep the booklets with their stuff rather than put them in their folders. I should have had them put them in the folders and give them to them at the end. Lesson learned for the next week.

My word for this session is HOPE.

And here’s the quick example I did for them on using the senses to describe our word of the day. My word was potential.


Looks like a room full of smiling young men
Smells like fresh rain
Tastes like that first bite of my favorite chocolate cake
Feels like hope
Sounds like the Universe clapping