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Trauma and the Power of New Ink

*Adapted from a blog I wrote as a Pongo Publishing mentor in collaboration with Seattle Public Library - April 2013 (part 3 of 4).

Many of us have had terrible things happen in our lives. This trauma leaves an imprint on us like a tattoo, the ink of which holds all the intricate details of what happened. The ink may fade in time but the tattoo never disappears. Hopefully we discover an outlet that empowers us to give this ink new meaning. At the Pongo Teen Writing Project we empower teens to write poetry about many experiences, including the terrible ones. As the young poet reexamines thoughts and emotions about a traumatic event, they often find new perspectives that help them move forward differently. The courageous new ink on the page somehow alters the ink of that old tattoo, providing a sense of relief and even hope.

Beyond the mighty influence that new ink has on one’s self, there is also something very powerful that happens when people share their writing with others. Another effect of trauma is that often we wad-up the thoughts and emotions associated with terrible events into a tight ball, then bury it somewhere deep inside, only to find there is no place deep enough. Often our poets feel the tight ball of trauma loosen as their words float from their mouth to someone’s ears. Often our poets connect to a community of others who have also been hurt. Often our poets discover empathy in others. Often our poets clarify right and wrong – who they want to be and who they don’t – and find cheerleaders for their new direction. Often our poets feel they can make a difference in the world, and help others break out of their own isolating pain. The power of this unfolding reaches far beyond healing ourselves, because the readers and listeners can’t help but have their own honest response to a poet’s truth.

If you are interested in writing about difficult events in your life these Pongo writing activities - “When Death Comes Suddenly” and “Song I Couldn’t Finish” – might be helpful.

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