Saturday, May 26, 2018

On the Road in Seattle: Love and the Pongo Poetry Project

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
The courage of the poet's pen is expressed in Seattle public art.

At the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle we came upon a booth for the Pongo Poetry Project. Pongo is a 25-year-old Seattle-based nonprofit that has helped more than 7000 teens inside jails, shelters and psychiatric hospitals heal through poetry. A flyer distributed at the booth had the following poem on love.


Love

The hardest thing for me to feel
Is love
To me, love can be a stab in my back
To me, love can be twisted
To me, love can be something I don’t understand
To me, love can be someone I love
To me, love can be confusing
And painful
To me, love can show forgiveness
Which is hard to express
To me, love feels like you’re soaring
And you’ll never let go,
But don’t look down!


— by a young man, 13 years old, in the state psychiatric hospital


The Pongo Poetry Project has produced over 14 books of poetry and distributed 15000 books for free. Selected poems from each volume of poetry are available to read online. In addition to helping high risk youths, Pongo also offers training, writing activities and a book about their methodology to counselors and teachers.

Love is from the 2006 collection, I Am a Monster, But a Fairy, Too. The poems were written by teenagers at Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC) — the only state-run residential psychiatric hospital for children in Washington State.