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Poetry Workshop Radiates Inspiration from Young Women in Shelter

Marlene, a 20 year-old woman living at Casa Myrna’s Adolescent Transitional Living Program (ATLP) with her one-year-old daughter, discovered writing as a source of inner strength when she was 14 years old. Since then, she has written hundreds of poems. “Writing is a good way of expressing myself. I write it out to get [my feelings] off my chest,” she said on a recent afternoon when we talked. Over the past several months, a poetry workshop at ATLP has provided the young women with a supportive, safe space in which to write and share work with each other.

Casa Myrna was fortunate to have Center for New Words, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that promotes the voices of marginalized women, lead the 10-week workshop series at no cost. Marlene’s poetry evokes many experiences from her past and includes reflections about her father being deported, her mother’s struggle with drug addiction, her experience being in an abusive relationship with an older man, and her own journey towards healing through the birth of her daughter.

Since she has started to write, Marlene has entered many poetry contests and eventually aspires to write both a book of poetry and a memoir. “I can write about anything; it just comes to me,” she said, adding, “my poetry can touch you.” She believes that many young girls who have experienced similar struggles can relate to her writing.

Marlene is currently enrolled in culinary classes at school. “Once I had my baby, I realized that I needed to go to school and get my education,” she said. The importance of education is not the only subject she feels strongly about. As our interview was ending, she told me “You have to believe in yourself.” It felt like she was also reminding herself of just how important that is.



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