Teen Poetry Collections

Ann's Preface

As the title, My Passion Leaps Out Toward the World, suggests, passion is bountiful in detention and begs to be heard. Many of the poems evoke emotions of disconnected lives that are lived in shame, violence, and fear. There is rage, as expressed by Drew: “My anger is like an earthquake, and is known to shake the nation.” Alonso appeals for understanding: “They say I won’t ever change, I am not deranged, I just carry this silent pain.”

But there are also poems that highlight the “little pieces of beauty” in shattered lives – images of hope, joy, and connection – such as Alice’s memories of her mom dancing, or Ervin’s pleasure in his newborn child. Finally, there are poems that shout out the pride of survival.

This is the power of voice, a profound expression of humanity, through which a stranger can also find grace by listening and bearing witness. In detention, when a young person’s armor melts away, what remains is the core of us all: the desire to be loved and understood.

In the Pongo Project, we wish to plant the seeds of poetry as a tool to help navigate, investigate, and celebrate who we are. Hopefully, along the way, we will all find kindness and forgiveness in ourselves and in others.

I am grateful for the commitment and teamwork of my colleagues Martha, Leslie, Kiana, Paul, and Dana.


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