Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Oct 30
Watching Her and Her

With today’s journal, I’d like to announce the latest winner of the Pongo Poetry Prize. In “Watching Her” you’ll hear the voice of a strong young woman. It makes me think about the resilience that we see all the time through our Pongo work.

The experiences of abused and neglected youth are terrible when you read about them in the teens’ Pongo poetry, but I always encourage readers to think beyond the sad content - to celebrate the resilience it takes to write and heal. Writing exposes a wound to light and air. After they write, the Pongo teens are proud, feel capable, and gain control in their lives. Instead of being merely reactive to pain, a person who writes can integrate that painful experience into a multi-faceted and cognizant personality. There is still sadness, and sometimes struggle, but a person’s losses can be mourned and a future envisioned.

And complementing the role of writing itself is the ability to be heard, which breaks down the walls of isolation. At Pongo we sit with our authors and listen to their stories as an important part of what we do. An awful reality of abuse and neglect is that the hurt often contains terror, blame, coercion, control, guilt, and helplessness. Abuse and neglect are a pointed injury to a person’s soul. And abuse and neglect throw their victims into terrible isolation. Yet we can help people to heal when we’re strong enough to listen to their stories and to accompany them out of their solitude.

So please read “Watching Her” and watch the author, too. Celebrate the latest winner of the Pongo Poetry Prize. Following the winning poem, there are links to three great poems that received Honorable Mention. Cheers!

Watching Her
by a young woman, age 16 

i've watched my mother all of my life

i watched her let my father beat her till her skull broke open and bled across the hardwood floor

i watched her recover from that incident, return to my father, and become pregnant with yet another child whom she'd always ignore

i watched her struggle in chaos and self punishment while she filled her 135lb body with vodka, beer, and rum

i watched her get so angry at my older sister that she'd beat her till her fragile 98lb body was forced to become numb

i watched my mother live the life of an addict, an abuser, and a manipulator

i watched her try and hide these things that she'd always reveal until the day i walked down the street and watched her do something she couldn't conceal

i watched my mother do these things till the day she had successfully pushed everything, including her children, out of her life

i watched her unconsciously toss and turn in a dirty sleeping bag on the rainy seattle sidewalk of lake city way

yes, i watched my mother all of my life
but sixteen years into watching i choose to no longer watch her strife

Honorable Mention, October 2010
My Best Friend Is in Love

Apr 03
A Prize Poem

Writing poetry can be an unexpected good. And for people in distress, isn’t it wonderful that the world contains unexpected good. When Pongo had its finale at the psych hospital on March 22, the teens were happy and excited to read their work, which was often about loss, anger, and self-destructive feelings. Yet poetry made the young people feel better.

People who have suffered the deepest losses may suffer a cascading series of tragedies, from abuse and neglect in childhood to rape, drug addiction, illness, being a survivor of a violent death. People in distress can also make poor choices that add to their losses.

But what difference does writing poetry make after life-altering tragedy? What is this unexpected good?

There are several features of the good. One feature is that poetry writing objectifies experience. There is a transformative moment in which people can see that something terrible has happened to them – but with more clarity and without an obliterating sense of shame. A second feature of this good is that writing is a communal and affecting experience. There is a transformative moment in which people recognize that their vulnerability is shared. In this second transformation, listeners participate as well as writers.

These thoughts provide the context for announcing Pongo’s first winner of the Pongo Poetry Prize. It is a poem about sex addiction. I value the author’s writing and her openness on a very personal but very human topic. This poem was written on the Pongo web site using the activity Addicted.

by a young woman, age 16 

I am addicted.
I am addicted to Sex.
In my addiction, my life is filled with only thinking about sex.
In my addiction, I am glad to feel loved and needed.

I am addicted.
I am addicted to Sex.
In my addiction, I hate to think about that they don’t really love me.
In my addiction, the real me becomes hidden and ignored.

I am addicted.
I am addicted to Sex.
In my addiction, betrayals of myself come in the form of moaning and scratches.
In my addiction, I struggle to feel real.

I am addicted.
I am addicted to Sex.
In my addition, I am hiding my true needing of LOVE.
In my addiction, I’m in a constant battle with myself.

I am addicted.

The Pongo Poetry Prize is presented quarterly to a poem submitted on our web site by a young person. There is a $50 award. Please encourage young authors to submit their creative work! You may click on the following links to read this quarter’s Honorable Mention poems, as well.

The Sick Boy
Emotions Lost in a Musician's Fingertips
Thanks to Mom (Stings Like an Eel)