Spotlight: Powerful Poetry Through the Pongo Publishing Project

With all of the celebrity blogs, fashion information, and just plain futile writing out there on the web it may seem difficult to find a truly meaningful blog on the Internet. Instead of an author this month, check out the Pong Publishing Project, proof that teens do want, and need, to write poetry. – Courtney McNamara, Spotlight Editor

As soon as the teens and I were done, there was often a special moment, when the teens felt proud and open, and we felt very connected to one another too, in a way that sometimes gave me chills.” – Richard Gold, founder of the Pongo Publishing Teen Writing Project

After reading these words, many questions may arise. What were these teens writing about? What did it take for them to let themselves be so open? The testimonial comes from Richard Gold’s early work with youth at a school for special needs. He later found out that many of these children were patients at a psychiatric children’s hospital. The writing, as it turns out, served as a form of therapy that was even more powerful than some of the treatment these teens had been receiving for years prior.

In 1992, Richard Gold founded the Pong Publishing Teen Writing Project as a means to return to this work with troubled youth in Seattle that had touched him so deeply. He implements “Expressive Therapy”, where teens pour out their emotional weight through the written word. These youth have experienced everything from abuse, neglect and addiction to time in juvenile detention centers. This unique experience that can be accessed on the web is a true gem in our world of the ever present social media. Not only are these teens fostering creative writing skills, they are beginning to heal wound that may have never been addressed through the sometimes uncomfortable traditional therapy they are used to.

On the website, anyone can access writing activities, often in the form of templates for poetry. For example, one popular activity is called “Self-Portrait”, and it asks the writer to chose colors to represent how he or she is feeling, painting a picture of him or herself through words. Not only are these teens helping themselves, it always feels pretty cool to have a finished poem to be proud of at the end of the day. In addition to the goal of helping these youth understand their feelings, the project helps build self-esteem through creation, especially when there is a possibility of publication.

Richard Gold and Pongo Publishing produce an annual anthology of selected work from these youth, which is distributed to teens suffering through similar circumstances, and some are even sold to the public at various book fairs. There is also a $50 prize given away every three months to a talented young poet who submits a poem through the Pongo website.

Teachers, community leaders, and even parents who want to utilize this unique approach can request a therapeutic writing workshop to help better understand how to implement these techniques. Interested in volunteering? Contact Pongo through their website and use your passion for writing to impact the lives of troubled youth. You can find out everything about this phenomenal project at, where you can access the writing activity templates, information about workshops, and just browse the powerful poetry. Pongo Publishing project is just another exciting example of the empowering quality of the written word, so don’t picking up those pens everyone!

Check out this excerpt from the most recent prize-winning poem, written by a 16 year old girl:

I’ve learned that Courage and Fear are different.
When Courage tells me that I am strong
and I don’t have to look behind,
Fear says I’ll never be me again.
Usually I listen to Courage, Fear, and my heart.
I wish no one may know my fears
and only see my courage and strength
So that I can be me again.
I wish I was Courage and not Fear.

Continue reading at: PONGO TEEN WRITING

Author’s Bio: Richard Gold, founder of the Pongo Publishing Project, most recently:

Richard was named a Microsoft Integral Fellow by the Microsoft Alumni Foundation for his work with Pongo. The award was judged by Tom Brokaw, Bill Gates Sr., and the heads of four prominent national foundations. At a banquet in November, Richard was presented with a medal by Bill and Melinda Gates, and he had the opportunity to address 450 people about the lives and poetry of abused and neglected youth. Pongo received a grant of $25,000.

Richard was named a finalist for the “All-Stars Among Us” award from People Magazine and Major League Baseball. He was honored at a Seattle Mariners game in June and interviewed on the post-game show.

Helped youth to write at King County Juvenile Detention, Seattle, Washington. Met with teens individually and in groups within the detention school program (Seattle Public Schools). Ran a training program for five Pongo volunteers (writers, teachers, and counselors) who worked as a Pongo team at this site. Served a total of 201 youth (156 in individual sessions).


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