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.


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.


Christina’s World

16.1949This is one of my favorite paintings in the whole world. My grandmother had a print of it in her bedroom for many years, and I am still captivated by its beauty and longing.

I did a little research and found out that the girl depicted in it, Christina, had trouble walking due to a degenerative muscle condition, so this was the only freedom she had. Wow. And then I wrote a poem about it.

Your turn: Find a photo or a piece of visual art and write about it. You could take the perspective of a person in it, or your perspective as someone looking in. You could do a little research on it or just dive right in. This is a great time of year for this, because lots of newspapers and magazines are picking out their best of 2015. So you could grab one of those too.

Fun fact: a poem that responds to a work of art is called ekphrastic poetry. It’s a fun word.


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