Lecture discusses benefits of Pongo Poetry as a potential psychology tool
Riverside, Calif. (Jan. 20, 2017)—“We know in psychology that one of the most important things in resiliency in kids that helps them get through a trauma is having one positive connection with an adult,” Dr. Becky Sherman told a California Baptist University audience. “As a psychologist, that is an awesome thing to remember.”
Sherman works with a nonprofit organization called Pongo Teen Writing, which reaches out to incarcerated children in Seattle, Washington, helping them overcome life’s difficulties through Pongo Poetry, an expressive form of poetry. She spoke as part of the School of the Behavioral Sciences’ Culture and Justice Lecture Series on Jan. 19.
Sherman shared examples of poetry that the children have written.
“I stayed in the house by myself until the landlord kicked me out,” Sherman read. “I went back to group homes, that’s what I get for being a bad kid I guess, but when people neglect and abandoned you it’s hard to treat them with respect… [this is] dedicated to my father.”
Sherman said that in the poetry she encounters, there is a common thread that kids write about — the effects of broken relationships.
“Kids can take on blame for what their parents have done,” Sherman said. “The confusion in all of that is there is love in spite of abandonment. This happens a lot with abused and abandoned kids. When their parents do bad things to them, they still love them in spite of all of that.”
The mission of Pongo is to help incarcerated children understand their difficult feelings and then find their strong voices and also address their life’s challenges and their hopes, Sherman said.
Sherman listed some of the benefits of writing poetry after trauma, which include: it helps integrate the feelings of disconnect and confusion; the youth learn to see themselves beyond a perspective of hurt; and the act of writing and sharing with a mentor provides a safe experience of trust.
“Expressive writing can be incredibly healing, especially if you are writing about something that you haven’t been talking to someone about,” Sherman said. “Poetry taps into another part of the brain in a really cool way.”