Teen Voices Loud & Clear

As you know if you were there, our May 6th Book Launch was joyous and energizing. Every reader who stepped up to the microphone delivered a confident performance, straight from the heart. The poems opened vivid windows into personal landscape, and each took the time to let their well-crafted lines reverberate in the ears and minds of audience members. Everything I heard afterwards (at the event and for weeks afterward) was enthusiastically positive. I think we can feel justifiably proud of our collective efforts!

I’m pretty sure that each of the Teen Voices participants has gained new awareness of their skills and power as writers, along with a sense of community and experience connecting with an audience. We look forward to further writing from all of you!

Here are some photos I took. Sorry I didn’t get everyone. If you have photos you’d like me to post, send them to me attached to any email and I’ll see what I can do.

As always…keep writing!


Book Launch Friday May 6 @ 7PM!!!

Hey Teen Voices, it’s show time! Tomorrow night at the Winona Art Center, 5th and Franklin, at 7 PM. Bring along your cheering section. We’ll have coffee and treats and it’ll be great. Check your email for some solid last-minute coaching, and try to be there by 6:30 PM for the sake of everyone’s nerves. If you haven’t already, take a minute to share the FB event or invite friends. See you there!

Teen Voices Book Launch Facebook Event





Mai’a Williams: tonight at 7 PM!

Get a start on National Poetry Month tonight! This is a unique chance to hear from a fine poet with a truly global perspective. As always at Laureate Series events, the featured reader is followed by an open mic. Be brave! It’s a very friendly audience. See you there: Blue Heron / Book Shelf Bookstore, Tuesday April 5, 7 PM.

Mai'a W jpg

You may remember Ken introducing Mai’a to us when she joined us for one of our workshops this winter. Click into the FB event below for more info. And here’s a link to Marcia’s Daily News interview “Radical Caretaking” with Mai’a to find out more about all the places she’s been. 

Bao Phi on March 23rd

This month’s Teen Voices workshop is finally here: Wednesday, March 23, 4:15-6:30 PM at Mugby Junction on Huff Street, featuring special guest Bao Phi.

What to bring: writing supplies/devices, drafts in process, and something to read out loud.


Bao Phi creates poems that are equally compelling read on the page or performed out loud. He is a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, and appeared on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. His first book, Sông I Sing, was published by Coffee House Press in 2011.

We are very lucky to have Bao join us, and are hoping for a good turnout. If you haven’t been able to attend regularly, that’s OK–you’re still very welcome! Please get to Mugby early enough to get your order filled and be ready to start by 4:30.

Check out Bao’s website for more info, including some really cool videos. Photo of Bao Phi by Anna Min.


Winona Daily News poetry contest

Hi Teen Voices participants and mentors,

I know most of you are amidst the process of working with us on poems for the book, but it never hurts to keep writing.

So in the interest of poetry, I wanted to share a local opportunity with you folks. It’s the Winona Daily News poetry contest, open to submissions now through April 1. The theme this year is the news, so we’re asking local poets like you to respond with a poem to a current event.

Find the contest description and rules here. Winning poems selected by a panel of three judges get published in the Winona Daily News, and all entrants are invited to share their poems at a public reading event at the Book Shelf April 26.



The work of writing

IMG_20160229_074722336_HDRHi Teen Voices folks,

By now, you’ve probably got a few poems down on paper. If you have been attending our meetings or corresponding with us, you may have also received some feedback on your work. And now we’re asking you to send us submissions for publication.

So how do you get there?

Long story short, it takes work. While I’m writing a poem, I am often filled with the excitement and energy of the moment. But when it comes time to look back at my notebook and type the poem, the work becomes slower, more methodical, even (dare I say) harder.

But this, friends, is the work of writing. Your first draft is rarely your best. Give yourself and your poetry the gift of time, of a second look.

And then set it free.

Happy leap day,


Our next guest: Naomi Cohn

Our next Teen Voices meeting is around the corner, on Wednesday, Feb. 10! Join us at 4:15 at Mugby Junction.

We are very excited to welcome Naomi Cohn as our guest this month. Naomi is a poet and artist who lives in St. Paul. She’s also the creator of Known By Heart, a collaborative project that’s all about connecting people through memory and poetry.

As always, we’ll spend some time working on poems in our groups too, so come with a couple drafts to share, and bring copies if you can.


Ode to a sprig of parsley, and other things

IMG_5706 (1)Introducing… odes! Odes are a fun kind of poem written in praise of something.

Well-loved Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote a lot of odes, including this, his Ode to the Onion (or Oda a la Cebolla). Here’s the English version. And for the folks who prefer to read in Spanish, here’s the Spanish original.

He writes to praise the onion (which is a pretty magical thing if you think about it). I love the line where he says “You make us cry without hurting us” because wow, sometimes I really want to chop onions because I need to cry about something but can’t otherwise.

Write an ode to your favorite vegetable. If you aren’t quite up on the ode-mode, try a love letter. But keep it specific. That’s what makes these poems tick. Readers won’t know what you mean when you say an onion is beautiful, but if you describe it as a “luminous flask” with “crystal scales” then everybody sees onions in a new way, and poetry magic happens.

Happy writing,


In the details

red_wheelbarrow2Here’s another prompt from Ken, based on another famous poem by William Carlos Williams. By focusing on observation and detail, you can counterbalance whatever tendencies your poems may have toward too much abstraction.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends



a red wheel



glazed with rain



beside the white


– William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

Using “The Red Wheelbarrow” as a model, write a poem in this style in which you present some objects that, taken together, seem to have an intrinsic relationship, even if that relationship is transitory, occurring only at that instant of time. This operates like a freeze frame in a movie, except this is the movie of your life.

Read More