“All human life has its seasons, and no one’s personal chaos can be permanent: winter, after all does not last forever does it? There is summer, too, and spring, and though sometimes when branches stay dark and the earth cracks with ice, one thinks they will never come, that spring, that summer, but they do, and always." T.Capote
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Teen Writing Project, by Pongo Publishing
Pongo Publishing is a nonprofit that helps distressed youth express themselves in poetry and personal writing. Pongo volunteers go into homeless shelters, detention centers, and psychiatric hospitals to set up its writing projects. Many Pongo authors are victims of abuse and neglect and also survivors of violent loss.
Pongo has found that creative writing is a wonderful way to articulate complicated feelings, commemorate people we've lost, and understand our own painful experiences of their passing. Pongo has collaborated with Dr. Edward Rynearson to incorporate writing therapy into therapy groups for traumatic grief, and Pongo has published several books of youth writing that were created in these grief groups.
I Can't Imagine Myself Any Other Place was created by youth in grief therapy in King County Juvenile Detention in Seattle, Washington. One powerful example of writing from this book is by Lawrence who, after sitting quietly through the talk portion of group, created the following story. He worked hard, shaking out his wrist periodically as he wrote. No one knew Lawrence's experience or pain until he shared this writing. He had ostensibly joined the group to discuss a different loss.
After My Sisters Were Kidnapped by Lawrence (age 17)
When I was at the motel I was scared that I would never see my sisters again and then it came true and every day I would go all over Seattle trying to find out where my sisters were, I was trying my hardest to find my sisters, I was gone all day long looking looking where I was in a messed up situation, I was walking around everywhere with a gun and ready for anyone to give me a clue or something to help locate my sisters, and I was ready to kill anybody that had anything to do with what had happened to my two little sisters, and I was hurt, I was angry, I was lost, I was in my own world, I was messed up in the head, I was gone and no one could talk to me or anything, I was gone, it was a time in life I will never forget that someone so sick could take those two sweet little girls from someone that has spent a lot of time and cared for them as much as I could, I was those girls' older brother and it hurts me bad because I used to take those girls with me everywhere I went and I used to take them to parks and play with them and get a lot of stuff for them, and I was an older brother that wouldn't let anybody do nothing do anything to these sweethearts, and I was so hurt I went out was getting drunk and smoking weed and I had got caught up in some shit and got arrested and sent to an institution for nine months, and I got out and I was trying to do a lot better and I was going out trying to get a job and help my mom out and I was doing everything I can to try to help my mom and then I was doing good for a long time and then on February 11, 1998, my mom told me that they have found the girls and then I started to cry and I was hurt and I started to drink and get high and I got in trouble and couldn't even go to the funeral and I was in here hurt and looking at thirteen months and now I'm trying to do a lot better so I can get over this.
In memory of my sisters
I Lost My Sense of Protection was created by youth in grief therapy at Echo Glen Children's Center, a Washington State juvenile rehabilitation center. The writing example below uses a structure that was created by Pongo (in italic), and the content was dictated by Ron, a 13-year-old boy. When Ron was done, his counselor said that it was the most she'd heard him talk in a year.
When Death Comes Suddenly by Ron (age 13)
When Death comes suddenly and violently You chase after it, or it follows you You grab it, or it grabs you And you hold on, or are held by Memories Emotions
This is about my memories and emotions
The things I've heard Gunshots. It wasn't really loud because they were right in front of me. More than 100 shots from automatic weapons. They shot the whole car up. Plus my cousin got shot 15 times.
The things I've touched I held his hand. He lived for three hours when he got fixed up. His hand was soft, clean. And I had a flashback at the time. I could have died.
The things I've tasted We just finished eating at McDonald's. We'd kicked it that day. Gone to the mall. A bag of new clothes on the backseat got shot up. There was cotton all over the place.
The things I've seen I just seen some people going hella slow. They just started dumping. Sprayed up the whole car. I loved my cousin. He was my boy. An ambulance came, picked him up, but I didn't see. I had to go in the house. They didn't want me to get involved.
The things I've imagined I could imagine his survival, but I was worried about his brain being damaged. He was shot in the chest. I was surprised he lived to see the hospital. I could imagine him in a wheelchair, paralyzed.
The things I've felt They pulled up, and the straps sounded like cap guns. My cousin said, "Get down." That's when he got shot up. I was hella shocked. At the same time that he was trying to hold me down, he was reaching for his gun. He was one of those people who didn't feel pain. He once came walking to my house with a bullet in his stomach.
The way I feel today I feel cool. I don't feel mad. I don't feel sad. I don't feel happy. I just feel normal. I wish I would have stayed home instead of asking if we could go kick it. I wish it would have never happened.
Pongo Publishing was established in 1992 in Seattle, Washington. Teen poetry, project history, and contact information are available at www.pongopublishing.org.