Wednesdays are getting busier around here. You know all those “do a kind thing” segments I keep attaching to my blog each week? I took my own advice a while back and volunteered at an agency in Minneapolis that works with kids in abusive situations. The agency, CornerHouse, does forensic interviews with kids and I, as a Wednesday morning volunteer, have spent the past few months learning how to hang out with those kids while they wait to be interviewed. When there are no kids to hang out with, I sometimes format the written documentation for interviews that are completed. This means I read about the events that got these kids referred to CornerHouse in the first place. What I already knew has been confirmed repeatedly: abuse happens in families without regard for income, race, sexual orientation, education, neighborhood, religion. And the kids who survive these situations are amazing. They show up, tell their stories, and go back out into the world. It makes my head spin to consider what kids who have been abused carry around in their hearts.
When I come home from my volunteer shift, the first thing I want to do is hug my daughter. If any of her friends are around, I want to hug them, too. I often think about how we share our stories, whatever they are. How do the most difficult stories get told? If no one seems to believe your story, do you tell it anyway? In a world where people abuse children, what good is it to be a poet?
And this is how I ended up doing research this week on poetry therapy. I found this excerpt from The Center for Journal Therapy on goodtherapy.org‘s site: “The poet’s capacity to distill the macrocosm of human experience into the microcosm of crafted words and images is the essence of interactive poetry therapy.” I immediately honed in on this sentence as a validation that poets can make an important difference in the world. Some days, the poems I spit out or the ones I critique seem like a giant waste of time. But every once in a while there’s a nice reminder that poetry, and all kinds of writing and other arts, offer a safe way to express the horrific and make it into something else.
Which leads me right to this week’s…..DO A KIND THING
I put a link to the Pongo Teen Writing Project on my blog last year and it’s time to do it again here. This nonprofit program that helps teens who are in difficult situations is a beautiful example of the power of poetry to make a difference. They’ve got several teen poetry collections for sale. And they have exercises to share, so if you’ve got teens in your life who might find poetry helpful to sort out whatever situation they’re in, this is for you.
Free Arts Minnesota is another organization I’ve mentioned before that uses poetry and other arts as a tool for at-risk youth. They bring arts programs to the places where kids are staying. Check them out here.