By Audrey Quinn
For many people, the thought of writing their own poems can seem daunting and embarrassing, to say the least.
Writing poetry, and sharing it with others, is an intimate process that looks different for everyone, regardless of the form of poetry. But writing poetry can be an empowering process, especially for young people still coming into themselves.
Empowerment through creative expression
I can testify to this firsthand: I started writing poems when I was about 11 years old, about all kinds of subjects, but particularly love and grief.
I mostly wrote free verse poetry, because it came easier to me than typical journal or diary entries. It was a way for me to write about the things I was going through, like my feelings for my best friend in middle school, who I knew wouldn’t feel the same way since she was a she, and at the time, I was too (now I identify as a they, or as a Scaly-Foot Gastropod, depending on how my day is going).
For many young people, having a creative outlet, whether it’s playing music or drawing or writing poetry, is not just important to them as a hobby. It’s important to them because they put parts of themselves into it that they don’t always have the space, words, or community to express in any other way. They grow these parts of themselves through their chosen craft and their personalities bloom as their crafting style withers and is reborn, over and over again.
An avenue into poetry
Within this same vein, Anna Ball’s Write Club workshop aimed at introducing youths to four easy ways of writing poetry.
In addition to learning about how to get started writing their poems, participants also learned about their “poetic temperament,” or how their personality traits influenced how they instinctively write poetry.
Anna Ball described four main poetic temperaments in the form of archetypes: Some poets are storytellers, some are musicians, some are architects, and some are painters.
The sounds of poetry
For example, some poets are more influenced by sound and music, which influences how they write poetry, which fits Ball’s “musicians” archetype. They may focus on the lyrical and sonic aspects of poetry, such as using onomatopoeia, or imagery that invites people to “hear” their poem’s subject, or they may focus on spoken word poetry and how their poem sounds when read and performed to an audience.
In the workshop, Anna Ball asked participating youths to explore how music influences poetry by writing “noise” poems, which involved students listening to different sounds and then composing a poem of seven or more lines which contained a sound in each line.
Kids and teens were encouraged to explore onomatopoeia (using the actual noise or a similar noise in their poem), as well as imagery by describing certain noises and using similar-sound words with matching vowel or consonant sounds.
Learning about your poetry style
Anna Ball also walked kids through exploring the other three poetic personality temperaments, and how they could use them to start writing poetry for themselves. In the musician’s case, maybe they start by listening to a piece of music that moves them emotionally, and then they write a poem based on associations and connections they made while listening to the piece.
Kids were able to learn more about their own personality traits, and find ways of getting started writing poems that suited their preferences and styles. They left the workshop with a new creative outlet they could use to express themselves, as well as enjoy as a hobby.
Creating poetry together
One of the most beautiful things about poetry is that everyone’s writing process is different, because everyone’s soul is different. Revealing that inner part of yourself through a keyboard, or through pencil and paper, or through spoken word, is an intimate exploration, not just of yourself but of all the things you are connected to as a person (animals, plants, other people, your home, the places you’ve been and the places you haven’t, etc.).
Even with our differences, we can still come together through poetry to create something new, together.
This is exactly what the kids and teens in Anna Ball’s Write Club did. They wrote poems together describing what they wish for. Youth aged 9-12 wrote a poem featuring colors, and teens aged 13-18 wrote a poem featuring numbers.
I Wish With Colors
I wish for fresh roses, in bright strawberry red
I wish oranges were violent like me
I wish that the sky was yellow like gold
I wish we weren’t at the freezing Oregon Coast
I wish for a life that shines as bright as my RAINBOW Pride
I wish to smell the reddest rose in the garden
I wish for stars, shining in the black night
I wish for oranges to fly in the sky so when they fall I can eat them
I wish for a crew of wild cats to live with
I Wish With Numbers
I wish that two people have the same amounts of freedom their minds do
I wish that a ten in love would compensate for a four in beauty
I wish I could fly so high 5…. 4… 3… 2… 1… tada
I wish I could go swimming to a place so wonderful & bright
I wish I could touch a million stars
I wish being a ten came from within
I wish I were a 5am bluejay, inviting my day with song
I wish you would give me one more chance, my 53rd one
i wish i could skip ahead 2 months
i wish i could be free 4 a while
The choir song of poetry
For me, in each of these poems, in each line, I can hear a different person’s voice. Each of these poems is like a choir, where each line is a different singer, and I think it’s incredible.
I’m reading these poems through a screen, not hearing them aloud, and I have no idea which youth or teen contributed which line, but I know that different people contributed different lines. I know the person who wrote “I wish oranges were violent like me,” is a different poet than the person who wrote “I wish for stars, shining in the black night.”
This shows what poetry can be: a way for people to say what they need to say, to each other, to themselves, and to us as readers and fellow human beings.
Upcoming classes you might enjoy
Join Rainbow Reads–a young adult LGBTQIA2S+ book group for Lane County teens hosted by Wordcrafters in Eugene in partnership with the Eugene Public Library!
2nd Thursdays, 7-9 pm | Share your words at our monthly open mic emceed by spoken word poet Jorah LaFleur
Dec 9 | Join Nina Kiriki Hoffman to create a magical holiday story just for young writers!
Dec 10 | See StoryHelix stories come to life at a Minority Voices Theatre production of community stories
Jan 13 | Explore historical fiction with Flora Winters in January’s Youth Write Club!