Many of the teens who write with Pongo have suffered trauma. And that distress leaves them silent, determinedly silent, helplessly silent – with a black hole in the spirit where their feelings are sucked inside.
It’s important to understand this silence in order to understand many suffering young people, and how they can be helped to poetry, and by poetry.
by Erica (a homeless young woman, about 15 years old)
My heart and my spirit are
My heart’s saying Yes,
but my spirit says No.
What’s the matter with me,
can you hear me,
can you even feel me?
I feel like a black hole,
something so gone.
I’m here but lost in…
but lost in what?
You try to finish the rest.
Often when people think about writing classes, they think about an expert writer who teaches skills and refinements of communication to people who already express themselves, even if those students don’t yet understand the deep reflection that writing can facilitate.
On the other hand, consider the people who have a black hole in the spirit. Many Pongo authors have suffered trauma, such as abuse, and their feelings are buried deep inside. Among the effects of trauma, people can be in shock and numb, cut off from feeling. Trauma itself can be overwhelming and people might repress the experience, or disengage from the experience in a more extreme way as if their traumatized feelings are part of an entirely separate personality.
Trauma can leave a person hypersensitive and overly reactive. This is not silence as such, but it might be a painful diversion from more painful feelings. Some people are aggressive. Some people hurt themselves. They unconsciously avoid feelings of traumatic loss.
Then there are traumas that exert an even more brutal grip on feelings. If a child has been abused by a parent, the child might blame herself or behave in other ways that protect the relationship with the parent. Also, the family may adapt to the abuse by placing great responsibility on the child, including the responsibility to keep the abuse a secret.
Guilt and shame are also powerful effects of trauma, and are contributors to a person’s silence. And so on.
For people who have suffered trauma, who feel a black hole in the spirit, poetry heals them by integrating experience and feeling.
Pongo enables that integration by listening to experiences and by placing a person’s words in the feeling-ful medium of poetry. Beyond that, the Pongo method is essentially gradual, nonintrusive, supportive, and caring.