Above the Water of My Sorrows contains poetry by youth in King County juvenile detention in Seattle. The poetry was facilitated by Pongo Teen Writing, a trauma-informed poetry program that enables youth to write therapeutic personal poetry about difficult childhood experiences, including experiences of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence.
The Pongo Teen Writing Project mentors personal poetry by distressed teens, especially those who have a hard time expressing themselves. Its trained volunteers establish writing projects inside juvenile detention centers, psychiatric hospitals and shelters. Its primary purpose is to help authors understand their feelings, find their voices, and express their best hopes.
Richard Gold founded The Pongo Poetry Project, a 22-year-old nonprofit. He offers national facilitator training. The Pongo program is described in detail in his book, Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method. (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2014).
Her name is Adia’Zalika.
I wanted to keep her.
Her father didn’t want her.
He named her.
He named her, and he did not want her.
She’s watching over us.
I feel like if she was here I don’t know
If things would necessarily be different.
Half of me doesn’t want her here.
I don’t want her to be at home while her mom’s in jail.
She would already be able to walk and crawl.
I feel that being older, having a career and a husband,
I feel that’s motherly love.
Half of me wants her here.
I don’t know if that makes me a bad person.
‘Cause the reason I want her here is for selfish reasons.
‘Cause I want to be loved and love her.
But God is a better parent than I could ever be.
And knowing the struggles that I’m going through now,
They would just affect her.
I don’t want her to end up like me.
Instead of being Adia’Zalika,
The little girl whose mom’s in jail,
She’s Adia’Zalika, the princess in heaven.
-Antonia, Age 15
(c)in the name of the poet or assigns. Used for educational purposes and for the promotion of the poet and personal use of the reader.
- Write about a regret.
- Write about a conflict: “Half of me wants….” and “Half of me doesn’t want….”
- Write anything that bubbles up in you from reading this poem. If it’s emotionally difficult, set the timer for 10 minutes. Take a break, read what you’ve written, and decide if you want to continue. If so, set the timer for another 10 minutes. Repeat.