How are you? Pongo is doing very well… As most of you know, the Pongo Teen Writing Project is a 12-year-old nonprofit that establishes therapeutic creative writing projects for youth inside homeless shelters, juvenile detention, psychiatric hospitals, and other sites in the Seattle area. Most of our writers have suffered childhood abuse and neglect, and our poetry program allows them to express themselves in a healing and constructive way. Pongo's web site is www.pongopublishing.org . I've enclosed some teen poetry and some more information about Pongo at the end of this message.
The latest news is this... One of Pongo’s board members has nominated me to be Poet Populist, a one-year position to advocate for art and democracy in the city. This is an exciting opportunity for me, which I explain below, and I’m writing to ask you to do two things:
1) Would you participate in the online voting and vote for me, Richard Gold. The web site is http://www.seattlepoetpopulist.org/vote.htm . (The Rules: You must be a Seattle resident, and you can only vote once. Voting ends August 15th.)
2) Would you take a few minutes to contact your friends and ask them to participate and vote for me. Would you ask them to ask THEIR friends to participate, as well. This email stream is my only effort to solicit votes.
I'm excited to run for Poet Populist because I want to share the poetry and lives of my Pongo Teen Writing Project authors, so that people better understand both their struggles and their strengths.
This message about the Pongo authors is multi-faceted. First, I want to share the stories of what these young people endure. They consistently write about early childhood trauma, such as abuse and neglect. The circumstances are often torturous – for example, one girl wrote about watching her mom die from a drug overdose, and about being told by her mom not to call for help. And you can also see, through the teens’ poetry, how childhood loss is connected to self-destructive behavior – such as teens’ addiction to drugs and the diversions of street life as a way of dealing with their pain.
But, second, I want to speak about resilience and the power of poetry to heal. The Pongo authors may write about traumatic events, and even cry while they write; but they learn something in the process, they feel proud (and joyful!) to express themselves creatively, they are excited to share their experience and help others, and they learn how writing can help them cope and grow.
In the last year, Pongo conducted surveys of 99 of its teen authors. Among the results – 100% of participants enjoyed the writing experience, 99% felt proud of their writing, 68% wrote about things that they had never talked about before, 73% learned something about themselves, 81% felt better because of their writing, and 91% said they would write in the future when life is difficult.
Finally, if I am Poet Populist, I’d like to explain this… Sometimes even caring people believe that teens who’ve had difficult childhoods are destined to become victims and victimizing adults, to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. But studies of resilience show that MOST people who are exposed to risk do fine, even if they sometimes struggle for a while as children and teens. In fact, people who are exposed to difficult childhoods often learn and grow from their experience, to become some of our most independent-thinking, principled, and caring citizens.
I've enclosed some teen poetry and more specific information on Pongo, below. Anyone who receives this message and wants to be on the Pongo email list (or off the Pongo list), can write to me at email@example.com .
Cheers and Best Wishes!
Founder and Executive Director
Pongo Teen Writing Project