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.


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.

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Just Sayin’…

Here’s a poem famous for its brevity and humor, followed by a quick prompt from Ken. Enjoy!

fridge door 2


I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox


and which

you were probably


for breakfast


Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold


Using “This is Just to Say” as a model, write a poem in this same style—short lines, incremental. His poem was written as an apology to his wife that he left on the refrigerator. Find something in your own experience that parallels this. Write an apology for something you did. Notice that Williams uses the title of the poem as his first line. Williams’ topic is light and whimsical. It would be good to find something easy-going like this, but you could also take on a more serious apology, which is probably the more usual situation in our lives. Don’t start it with “This is Just to Say” as your first line—come up with your own parallel move.






Internet Poem Sources

Here are three great places to look for poems. It’s important for writers to have other writers that they admire, learn from, aspire towards…

Poetry FoundationPoetry.org is the website for the Poetry Foundation, an outgrowth of Poetry, the oldest poetry journal in the U.S. The Poetry Foundation received a huge financial legacy about 10 years ago, earmarked to promote and nourish American poetry and poets, and they are doing a great job doing just that. Browse  Poems & Poets for specific poems, or just look around and see what you can find.

poetry180-bannerPoetry 180 is a project developed by Billy Collins, one of the 3 or 4 most well-known poets in the country. When he was U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-03) he created a poem-a-day internet source, which is now archived by the Library of Congress. These are poems selected with teen readers in mind. They are not categorized; you just have to browse through the list and see what looks good. You can also check out Collins’ advice for How to Read a Poem Out Loud.


PoemHunter.com offers lots of categories and a large searchable database of good poetry. The site has more of a social network orientation, with Top 500 rating, trending topics, and so forth. Girl poems, kiss poems, death poems, New Year’s poems…. Have fun!

Winter Holiday Poems

BookTree1-550x550  Here’s a winter holiday poetry potluck that Ken found in the e-newsletter from the Academy of American Poets–follow the links to their site and browse around while you’re there!

How could poetry enliven your holidays? Read it out loud on a long car trip. Quote from an old favorite in a handmade card. Gather a few little kids and read about the Grinch. And keep writing! More prompts soon…

Academy of American Poets Newsletter
December 16, 2015

A Season for Giving Poetry

’Tis the season for giving, whether it’s presents, thanks, or well wishes. As winter begins and the year winds down to a close, we give you this poem roundup—as well as wishes for happy holidays and a joyous new year.
In drear nighted December” by John Keats
Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clark Moore
Winter Twilight” by Anne Porter
Why Is the Color of Snow?” by Brenda Shaughnessy
Toward the Winter Solstice” by Timothy Steele
The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens
Lines for Winter” by Mark Strand
When the Year Grows Old” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Lexiconic, a prompt


This prompt is adapted from Zach Carlsen’s exercise that he led at our December session. I think this will work just fine on your own, though it’s probably not quite as much fun that way.   –Scott

  1. Set a timer and write freely and continually for five minutes about a vivid memory or dream. Pick your topic before you set the timer.
  2. Go back and mark the following types of speech in your writing:
  • Circle nouns (persons, places, things)
  • Box adjectives (describe persons, places, things)
  • Underline verbs (action words)
  • Squiggle around adverbs (describe or modify verbs, usually end in “ly”)
  1. Make a list or chart of 10-12 of the most interesting words from each category. This is the word-bank or “lexicon” for your poem.
  2. Write a five-line poem that only uses nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs from this lexicon. You can add other types of connecting words as needed:
  • articles: a, an, the…
  • pronouns: he, she, it, they….
  • conjunctions: and, or, but….

Remember that poems don’t have to “make sense” in the literal, everyday sort of way! Do you think your five line poem is influenced by the memory or dream with which you started?


the Legendary Zach Carlsen in action