Thursday, January 17, 2019

Luke Cissell wants to give kids a listening ear, and a little free expression

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 1:00 AM

click to enlarge Reading and Book Release: The Story of Us – Life After Loss, Noon to 3 p.m., Hooked on Books, 10-12 E. Bijou St., free, tinyurl.com/StoryofUSCOS. - LUKE CISSEL
  • Luke Cissel
  • Reading and Book Release: The Story of Us – Life After Loss, Noon to 3 p.m., Hooked on Books, 10-12 E. Bijou St., free, tinyurl.com/StoryofUSCOS.
Local poet Luke Cissell never enjoyed English classes when he was a teenager. Traditional writing required too much structure, he says, and he found it difficult to access his thoughts and feelings when he spent his energy on spelling and punctuation. So as he has worked with youth poets, first as a part of Hear, Here! Poetry (a local spoken-word poetry organization, to which Cissell no longer belongs) and now with teens serving time in detention facilities, he has encouraged a free expression of thought through poetry. “I think the kids are a lot quicker to tap into themselves and into their stories when they’re able to just creatively write,” Cissell says. “... My goal in this free-flow, free-form style of writing will hopefully open them up to be more free with any art or form of expression that they have. To be less judgmental with it.”

Over the last three years hosting poetry workshops in youth detention facilities, Cissell has helped scores of kids express their stories to a world that consistently refuses to hear what they have to say for themselves. “All these kids are known more by, say, their rap sheets and what’s been on the news than anything else,” Cissell says. “There’s much more to the story than just the charges that they picked up and what happened the night of the crimes that they committed.” In order to increase the reach of those stories, he has put together a book from poems written by the kids who have taken his workshop: The Story of Us – Life After Loss.
At Saturday’s reading and book release, Cissell will read some of these poems, sharing stories and emotions in the teens’ own words, and he will share the insights he has gathered from his work with youths like them. More than 40 kids, between ages 11 and 18, contributed to the book. Cissell says that youths often share their struggles with each other, but important adults like teachers and parents are often left in the dark. Even those with the resources to help seldom know the extent of what kids are going through. He hopes that this book will inspire those living “on the outs” to effect real change, and ensure fewer kids end up in custody. According to Cissell, every teen is in some way an “at-risk” teen, and so many have been detrimentally affected by their environments. These youths’ stories should shed some light on how we can help make the world a little safer for the kids in our communities who most need a listening ear, and a little free expression.

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