Monday was the fifth session of the Incarcerated teens poetry class.
There’s nothing like opening the classroom door and being greeted with a chorus of "Susan! Susan! Susan!" to make a girl feel great. I’m sure it had more to do with getting out of some regular schoolwork than it did with poetry but hey, a girl can hope.
We had another new student. This guy is the type who always wants to be the center of attention and he gets it by going over the top with everything he does. It was a little sad because the group was writing some deep, hard stuff but the new guy was being flip. He’s only there for a short time and I only have 4 visits left so I don’t expect to make much of a connection with him. I just hope he doesn’t pull any of the others into his loop.
We did some more work with list poems. I thought I’d start with something light-hearted so I wrote I WISH on the board and had them each give me a line. I was expecting some goofy or outrageous stuff but no, they went right to my heart again. Then they worked on some I REMEMBER poems on their own and shared them. Again, all of them (except for the new guy) went right to the heart of their lives before. They accomplish great work in ten minutes of writing, the kind of gut-honest stuff I wish I managed in quick poems.
I gave them some more time to finish their Valentine’s Day cards and poems they were making for the special people in their lives. Some of them were anxious to show me what they had done. One student used his art time to copy all his poems into his own notebook, nice and neat, so he would always have it. I told him he would get to keep all his own papers and he said that was fine but he liked having them all in one place. I told him I understood. I hadn’t realized he had been doing this all along.
It’s hard not to look at them and wonder what their personal stories are. I don’t know any of them. I don’t ask and they don’t tell, except for what they share through their writing. I find myself making up little stories about them, stories I know can’t possibly be true because in my stories they are all still innocents, young boys caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. In my stories they all find that writing and reading can offer them another way to deal with all the crap they have to deal with in their life. It can help them find a path, a different path, and help them make a change in their lives, a change for the good. Hey, a girl can hope.
* Incarcerated teens poetry 2010 class 1/session 6
I’m choked up. Seriously. I was tearing up as I read this. I have two sons who are now in their early twenties. I remember those tumultuous teen years clearly. They grew up without a father and chose a few difficult paths on their way to adulthood.
The openness of the teens, as you describe, to what you are introducing them to shines a light on the innocence they still cling to – that we still cling to. That hope of something better. Of something beautiful. Of understanding. Of a second chance.
I can’t help but think that what you are doing is of extreme importance. Thank you. And thank you for letting their lives touch yours.
Actually, I would say, “A girl *must* hope.”