Date of Award

Spring 6-8-2018

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Doug Thorpe

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Jennifer Maier


Poetry Therapy, Homeless youth, art therapy, Pongo, Seattle


This paper is a creative nonfiction essay combining research, interviews, and personal experience to discuss how and why poetry is helpful in a therapeutic context, specifically working with at-risk youth. Pongo, a program that provides incarcerated youth an opportunity to write poetry, under the direction of Richard Gold, has found through survey responses that with the Pongo Teen Writing Method “100 percent of youth enjoyed the writing experience, 98 percent were proud of their writing, and 73 percent wrote on topics they don’t normally talk about” (Gold, 21). I came to understand, through time volunteering with the writing groups at the New Horizons Ministries youth shelter and training with the Pongo poetry therapy program, that the aspects of poetry that most lend itself to therapy are its brevity, rhythm, use of imagery and metaphor, and compact address of complex problems. The homeless youth at New Horizons shared some of their poetry with me, and it was evident that the poems allow them to discuss and process many aspects of trauma and identity. They also build community through the act of sharing the poems in groups. Through the poems of the at-risk youth outlined in this paper, the youth give a glimpse into the ways poetry has assisted them in facing the difficulties and heartbreaks of street life in Seattle.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements of the University Scholars Program