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A Journal by WritersCorps at the Juvenile Justice Center

Words Within the Walls: A Journal by WrtiersCorps at the Juvenile Justice Center

Words Within the Walls


Words Within the Walls A Journal by WritersCorps at the Juvenile Justice Center Edited by WritersCorps Teaching Artist Anhvu Buchanan


Credits

Acknowledgments

© 2013 WritersCorps Books Cover art © 2013 Adrienne Aquino

My gratitude to the incredible teachers at the Juvenile Justice Center is limitless. I am eternally grateful to Megan Mecurio, Sean Neil, Jamie Lundy, and Constance Walker, who worked side-by-side with me for the past three years. Your support and encouragement made this publication possible. Seeing how dedicated you are to the students pushed me that much harder to come in and have the best possible lessons for them every week. Thank you also to Rachel Bernstein for your ability to connect with the students and introduce them to such wonderful words and books. You are truly a blessing. Finally, thank you to Mr. Miller, the support staff, and all the counselors at the JJC for your help over the last three years.

All poems, stories, photographs and illustrations printed with permission from the authors and subjects. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, nor may it be introduced into any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the copyright owner. Anhvu Buchanan, Editor Alexandra Wilder, Series Editor & Copy Editor Adrienne Aquino, Graphic Designer WritersCorps, a joint project of the San Francisco Arts Commission and San Francisco Public Library, places professional writers in community settings to teach creative writing to youth. Since its inception in 1994, the program has helped nearly 18,000 young people from neighborhoods throughout San Francisco improve their literacy and increase their desire to learn. WritersCorps gratefully acknowledges the support of the San Francisco Public Library, the Department of Children, Youth, and their Families; the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission; the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council; the MetLife Foundation Partners in Arts Education; and individuals.

Special thanks to my fellow WritersCorps teaching artists past and present. Thank you to Roseli Ilano, Harold Terezón, Carrie Leilam Love, Minna Dubin, Richard D’Elia, Meg Day, Aracely Gonzalez, Micheal Myron Hardy, Rose Tully, and Sandra García Rivera for teaching me, listening to me, and pushing me to be the writer and teacher I am today. Thank you to Adrienne Aquino for proving that graphic design is just as much an art form as creative writing. Thank you to Alexandra Wilder for your hard work and dedication. An enormous thank you to Melissa Hung and Judith Tannenbaum for believing in me and allowing me to teach what I love for the last three years. This will be a time I will always regard as one of the best in my life. Finally, thank you to all the students at the Juvenile Justice Center that I’ve worked with these last three years. Your strength and your stories will be in my heart for the rest of my life. I am forever changed by my experience writing and working with such incredibly talented young people. Thank, you, thank you, thank you.

Anhvu Buchanan Teaching Artist

The MetLife Foundation Partners in Arts Education Program is funded by MetLife Foundation and administered by the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Special thanks to EPAC Technologies, Inc. for its printing contribution. For more information: 415-252-4655, www.writerscorps.org

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Introduction For the last three years, I have taught incredibly talented incarcerated youth at the Juvenile Justice Center in San Francisco. I have worked with students whose ages range from twelve to eighteen years old. The teachers at the JJC strive to not only educate them, but to also give them the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom. Every Friday, I come in during the English teacher’s class and teach creative writing, and every Friday, I am constantly in awe at the level of writing talent my students display. They are able to push through all the circumstances they are dealing with and craft genuine and thoughtprovoking writing in a very short period of time. I have created this journal not just for my students, but also for all the students out there who need and want to write. This journal is intended for anyone out there with a story to tell, or a poem dying to get out. Our hope is that Words Within the Walls will function as a blank writing journal, an anthology, and a source of inspirational prompts. The most important purpose of this journal is that it provides students and writers with blank pages that invite their own words. This journal was created as a home for a writer’s poems, stories, letters, and thoughts. I want students to write, write, and write some more in this journal—they should mark up the pages and fill them to the brim. This journal also contains some of the best poetry written over the course of the year by my students at the Juvenile Justice Center. My ultimate hope is that anyone picking up this journal will read these wonderful poems written by the youth within the walls and find motivation to create their own words. We hope this journal will be used to combat a writer’s worst fear: writer’s block. Within this journal are prompts, topics, and ideas that I have used during my three years teaching at the Juvenile Justice Center. I hope that these prompts will be helpful for any writer without a writing program like WritersCorps in their area or school.

document and testament to our memories and experiences over these last three years. Finally, and most importantly, please fill this journal with your own stories, poems, letters, raps, or any kind of writing you wish to do. Write and don’t ever look back. I will never forget you.

Anhvu Buchanan Spring 2013

To my students: this journal is my thank you for changing my life. There were so many poems and moments that will forever linger in my mind, as both a writer and a teacher. Thank you for those moments. I created this journal for you because I want to make sure that you continue to write and express yourselves creatively. I want you to prove to everyone who has ever looked down on you or judged you that they were wrong. I want you to know that your words should be heard and read. I want you to know that your future is as bright as the brightest lights this city has to offer. Though my time has come to an end at the JJC, I want this journal to be a living

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Home TD When I think of home I think of peace I think of happiness throughout the streets I try to envision a life with no crime Sadly it’s not true but we still have time When I think of home I think of somewhere safe Where everyone cares and loves to see your face Anyone can come and chill in this place When it’s time to bat you step up to the plate When I think of home I think of a mother’s love Where you can be yourself and won’t be judged A place where everyone wishes you luck Where your family lives and you have trust When I think of home I think of good things It’s not always this way but it’s not a dream A special place you can be with your team And in my home I know I am King When I think of home a lot comes to mind A lot on the positive and a lot on the negative side Drug dealers on the corner shootings and drive-bys Dope fiends all around searching for a high When I think of home sometimes I want to escape Street fights between people even a bloody face Police cars sirens and even a high-speed chase But my home is my home and I will always love this place

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What is home to you? Is home the curb you walk on, or your sister’s laugh? Is home the sight of your mother’s smile? Write a poem giving your definition of what the word “home” really means to you.

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Write a poem in the form of a letter, but instead of writing the letter poem to a person, write it to a place, thing, idea, or feeling.

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In dreams anything is possible. Fish can fly and buildings can sing. Write a poem that acts like a dream where anything is possible and where all the rules are broken. Try to incorporate as many images as you can into your poem.

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Write about an imagined place, an ideal city that you’d like to live in. What would your ideal city look like? What would be the laws? How would the people interact? Why would you, or other people, love to live in this ideal city?

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America’s Beauty Gone

Like JN, write a poem that personifies (gives human qualities to) an object, abstraction, or idea.

JN Oh, how noble and beautiful she once was, But look now, for her perfection, Is merely a filthy sight, Influenced by the trash of the world’s sorrows. Her once glorious title, “The Protected Sanctuary,” Is now slowly diminishing By selfish corruption and hateful feuds. Her once-pleasing voice, Enriched with words of joy and lovingness, Is now plagued with hate and frustration Summoned by senseless wars of bitterness. All her sadness and tears, Washes her makeup away, Showing all the emotional scars, Of the children she once lost. Oh, how noble and beautiful she once was. This was a woman we once loved. Like a domino, standing up tall, Now fallen on the cold, hard floor.

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Write a poem about the future you want to live in. Think and dream big. What would this future look like? Where will you live? What will you be doing?Â

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Write a poem for one of your heroes.

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Find a piece of art or photography that inspires you. Write a poem describing what is happening in that art piece, or write from the perspective of someone or something in the piece. Be as descriptive as you can, so the reader can really understand and appreciate the original art piece/photo.

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My Perspective of “Freedom” JG Impulsion is weary Grateful as a ticking time bomb Triggered like a gun But weak like a fault Finding a reason to continue We juvenile delinquents tend to think Our words are unheard and pointless Though our emotions show anger and sorrow Loudly to be defined By thick steel doors Sometimes after court or just before We sit with tears rolling down our faces Pulling negativity around us Forgetting our families and friends Who are on the other side of these cold brick walls Ignoring the future freedom Worried only about the next court date To consume any amount of freedom No one understands it like me It never says love me to the citizens beyond a judge It never says accept me only says push me to your limit And I’m gone Freedom is a pure struggle Blindly there like a shadow Between the court of the judge And the recommendations of the PO

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Write about your goals and ambitions.

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Memory

What do you remember?

ST Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember Remember

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the time I doubted you the sunset on the beach the clouds in the sky the lightning from the story the sunshine on the beautiful day the horses eating hay the birds whistling the baby crying for days the strung out lady the neighborhood we live to die we live with pride to live your life to the fullest tomorrow is not promised with wishes love is pain there is a key to my heart but I don’t know how to distribute it

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The Story of My Name

Who named you? Do you know what your name means? Do you have a different name at school, or on the street, than at home? If you imagined a story for your name, what would that story be? Write a poem or story about your name, first or last.

DR My My My My My My My My My My My My My My My My My

name name name name name name name name name name name name name name name name name

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came from history, from the past. is powerful and religious. is beloved. means the Bible. means King, leader of all time. is heroic. means the bigger they are, the harder they fall. is intelligent. has a dark side. has its sin, its emotions. is priceless. is not God, nor hope. lives in principles. has mistakes. has been judged. has fallen. is resurrected.

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Write a concrete poem. Concrete poems are written in the shape of what they are. Shapes that are not too complicated will work the best. A poem about football will be in the shape of a football, or a poem about a king might be in the shape of a crown. The poem can include the word, words to describe what you’re writing about, or a poem about the topic itself. The possibilities are endless! The key is to create a strong visual image using words.

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Write a poem about a childhood memory.

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Write a poem that should be heard and performed. Focus on sound and rhythm.

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Strings of Fire KSG Strings of fire flowing under the cave Wood burning Like fireworks in the air The angels form With clear red wings Sparkles make it look beautiful In that summer night

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If I had a time machine, I would.‌

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Make a list of your favorite words. Write poetic definitions for these words. What does the word sound like? Look like? These words will have new, more personal, meanings created by you.

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What makes you strong?

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Pick a color and write about the color. Try to incorporate the five senses (taste, touch, smell, sound, sight) into your poem.

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Love Poem to Love

Who or what do you love? Write a poem expressing this love and gratitude.

PM I love when the sun hits my body and makes my skin warm I could have sworn love was not in me before But out of nowhere this feeling came rushing in me like a rhino with horns My heart was once torn from a war but now it’s repaired As if it has just come back from an auto shop I used to hate everything that was successful and beautiful Now I cherish them Those loyal relationships and honest conversations Changed my whole view of the world I learned you have to forgive to be forgiven With all this guilt off my chest and love in my heart I am finally living Now love has me smiling and living great Who knew love can bring you peace and help you learn from your mistakes I got to admit love is great

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Life HS Why do people misinterpret life? Why are some afraid of the end? Why do people lose faith so easily? Why do people mourn so much when their loved ones die? Aren’t they in a better place? Isn’t that what we are told? Why do people hold grudges? Why do people hate on the next person? Why do people always want what they don’t have? Why do people feel bad after they do something wrong and not before— Is that supposed to be a learning process? Do some people learn or just stay stuck in their mistakes? Damn, why do people misinterpret life?

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Write a poem made up entirely of questions.

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Write an ode—a poem that gives praise and honor to a person or object.

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Write a haiku that captures a moment or daily experience. Try to write it in the traditional form. A traditional haiku only has three lines, and each line has a certain number of syllables. The first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third (and last) line has five syllables again. An example of a five-syllable line would be: “pic•ture good things now.â€? The most important aspect of the haiku is to use direct language and to present a very vivid picture or a very specific moment.

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If I were an animal, I would be a‌.

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Pay Me

Want to do something different? Take a well-known poem and transform it into your own poem by using a writing method called N + 7. First, find all the nouns (person, place, or thing) in the poem and underline them. Next, grab a dictionary and search for all the nouns you underlined in the poem. Look up each noun and replace it with a noun that is seven nouns from it or before it in the dictionary. Plug that new noun into the well-known poem and go on to the next noun. The poem will transform into something completely different and new! Don’t worry, the poem doesn’t have to make any sense. This exercise is more about the process than the finished product!

RG Pay me Pay me in my hand Pay me with an advance Pay me like a real man Pay me like there’s no other man Pay me with respect Pay me or else you’re in debt Pay me with attention Don’t pay me with your reflection Pay me with your correction With more to mention Let’s see more than just this Pay me with innocence And I’ll pay you with the world Pay me with your respect And I’ll show you more Pay me with more than just stress Because that’s all we do You’re all in my dreams I just want to be in between Pay me with your dreams I’ll tell you mine Find my heart, it isn’t hard to find

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Tell a story backwards. Write a story that starts with the ending, and then goes to the beginning.

How to Get Over Time in YGC* MS Sit yourself in a place and gaze into a daze. Listen to your inner thoughts, Let the breeze of the vents take you away. As you close your eyes, Tilt your head back on the cold brick wall. Remembering may not be the best thing, But take a deep breath, And think of your family, You might tense up in your chest, So take a deep breath, And let your inner thoughts roam. You feel the world in your head. Wonder the wondrous things. As you breathe the air in your cold brick cell, You’ll feel the warmth flow within your thoughts, Within the hollow rooms. Find yourself falling through a deep sleep. Your reward is that your mind is willing to change while being detained.

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Write your own how-to poem! What are you an expert at? Pick a topic or interest that you feel like you can write a (poetic) instruction manual for. Write a poem in which your reader can understand how to do something and what it feels like to do this activity.

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Tornado

Create your own character/persona and write in his/her voice in a poem or a story. This character can be anyone: a person from history, an imaginary or mythical person, or someone or something completely new and different from you.

LW I twist and turn Destroy and burn Something you can’t handle I might melt you like a candle And you might fly out of your sandals With my winds I will tear the top off your roof Take a swig from a lake Break the neighborhood like a twig Have everyone in the world flying like pigs

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Write a list poem. You can make a poem from a list of just about anything. The most important factor in the list poem is picking what kind of list you want to write about. For instance, you could write a list poem about all the things that bug you, or about places you want to travel to in the future.Â

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Self-Portrait

Like KG, write a self-portrait poem illustrating who you are. It can include physical descriptions, interests, memories, experiences, dreams, and goals. Let the world know just who you are!

KG I’m brown-skinned like a tree trunk With eyes that look like diamonds Small and shiny My black curly hair hangs from my head like ropes I am as strong and emotional as Superman I am young in people’s eyes But old enough to know right from wrong I have a heart the size of a watermelon But hard as a stone and cold like ice I’m like a pearl beautiful and round Can’t be broken easily I come from a great family where Quitting is never an option And bullets burning skin leaving scars for life Mentally and physically

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Write a letter or a poem to yourself and give yourself advice on how to move forward and be better in the future. How can you be successful once you get out of the JJC? How can you be better for your friends and family?

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At a Loss DA It’s kind of hard to tell but my words are Filled with shame My heart is full of pain and my mind is Filled with game Allergic to the sun but deep inside I love the rain My lifestyle is so attractive Because of my sins my years subtracted Stressed out but not depressed not Many know the difference Cautious of my surroundings and The rest is not my business Sometimes I walk with a hunch but Not because I’m lazy It might be because I’m crazy that’s What momma should have named me but That’s what the ghetto made me I just hope nobody blames me Because I’m not the type to snitch and I’m not the type to judge I’m not the type to blame but to God I hold a grudge because I Feel so mad and violent While I pray for peace and Love

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The Wings of an Angel

Poems

NT

Home

TD ........................................................ 6

America’s Beauty Gone

JN ........................................................ 18

My Perspective of Freedom

JG ........................................................ 32

Memory

ST ........................................................ 38

The Story of My Name

DR ...................................................... 42

Strings of Fire

KSG .................................................... 50

Love Poem to Love

PM ....................................................... 60

Life

HS ....................................................... 63

Pay Me

RG ....................................................... 74

How to Get Over Time in YGC

MS ....................................................... 79

Tornado

LW ....................................................... 84

Self-Portrait

KG ....................................................... 90

At a Loss

DA ....................................................... 97

The Wings of an Angel

NT ........................................................ 98

Slowly, I drop to my knees in defeat, this path to destruction is finally complete. Tears fill my eyes as they render me blind, As I try to escape these thoughts in my mind, But the walls are sealed tight and I am trapped deep inside. There is nowhere to run and there is nowhere to hide. I I I I

must must must must

find a reason to stand up and fight. find a reason to make everything right. break these chains that imprison my soul. patch this leak in my heart with a hole.

Then a sliver of hope drops its first seed, As the will to survive is beginning to feed, In the distance I hear a small voice crying out, As my heart starts to heal I stand up and shout, “I’m here, please don’t cry—I’ll find my way home and I promise to leave you alone!” Again, I drop to my knees to pray, “Please, dear God, grant me just one more day!” I don’t know if you hear me or even exist, But these prayers that I pray, please don’t resist, The silence that answered filled me with dread, Inside I felt hollow as I lowered my head. When I lifted my eyes, there were two tiny feet, And when I lifted my head, my own eyes did I meet. This time, in my eyes were tears filled with joy, For standing before me was just a pretty boy. He ran into my arms and hugged me so tight, The touch of my angel, a reprieve from my plight. Gone was the past, rejection, hatred, and pain, It’s place filled with something that I couldn’t explain. As I rose to my feet, in the distance a light shone— Hand-in-hand with my little brother, I followed it home.

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Writing Prompts Home ...........................................................................................................................................................8 Letter Poems........................................................................................................................................... 12 Dreams and Imagery............................................................................................................................ 14 An Ideal City............................................................................................................................................ 16 Personification........................................................................................................................................ 19 A Future You Want to Live In........................................................................................................... 23 Your Heroes..............................................................................................................................................27 Art and Photography........................................................................................................................... 29 Goals and Ambitions........................................................................................................................... 36 Remember............................................................................................................................................... 39 Names........................................................................................................................................................ 43 Concrete Poem...................................................................................................................................... 45 Childhood Memory............................................................................................................................... 46 Sound......................................................................................................................................................... 48 Time Machine.......................................................................................................................................... 52 Favorite Words....................................................................................................................................... 55 Strength.....................................................................................................................................................57 The Senses............................................................................................................................................... 58 Love............................................................................................................................................................. 61 Questions................................................................................................................................................. 64 Ode............................................................................................................................................................. 68 Haiku........................................................................................................................................................... 71 Animals......................................................................................................................................................73 N+7..............................................................................................................................................................75 Backwards................................................................................................................................................ 78 How-To......................................................................................................................................................80 Character.................................................................................................................................................. 85 List.............................................................................................................................................................. 88 Self-Portrait.............................................................................................................................................. 91 Letter......................................................................................................................................................... 93

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A Journal by WritersCorps at the Juvenile Justice Center

Words Within the Walls: A Journal by WrtiersCorps at the Juvenile Justice Center

Words Within the Walls

Profile for WritersCorps

Words Within the Walls-- WritersCorps  

This journal contains sample poems and prompts, with lined pages for writing. Edited by Anhvu Buchanan, a WritersCorps teaching artist worki...

Words Within the Walls-- WritersCorps  

This journal contains sample poems and prompts, with lined pages for writing. Edited by Anhvu Buchanan, a WritersCorps teaching artist worki...

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