A while ago, I picked up some magazines a neighbor had left in his garden for people to enjoy. Some of them were several years old. In a 2009 edition of Yes, I found a story about a writing project for juvenile boys at the Detention Center in Seattle.
The program had an uneven start. Finding a group of teenage “tough guys” who wanted to write poetry wasn’t easy. But with a little coaxing, a few were won over, particularly when they were assured that what they wrote wouldn’t be judged. Spelling and grammar wasn’t important. What mattered was honesty.
The project took hold when these fledgling poets discovered they’d found a proper outlet for their rage. They wrote about what it felt like to have parents who were druggies or how life was endured as a prostitute living on the streets.
When a person commits his thoughts to paper, an idea that once was non-dimensional suddenly has dimension. Those thoughts can be shared and new insights become possible.
Freed from the judgment of their peers and the interrogations of psychologists, however benevolent, students get immersed in the natural high that comes when you abandon the bravado, bluffing and bullshit and start finding truth and color from within. (“Healing Power of Prison Poetry,” by Eli Hastings, Yes, Fall 2009, pg. 44.)
Finding truth. That’s not a bad payback for a few lines of poetry.
*Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats, May 1891
(Courtesy of reason-and-rhyme.blogspot.com)