You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2012.


Here is news about the great work that Pongo Publishing does with our youth.  One poem on our website tells how a young man ended up in Juvenile Hall due to his sisters murders. That and more can be found at the link to our site I have provided.

More on Pongo can be found at:

Richard Gold has been a regular presenter at our National conferences we have held on Violent Death. He will be there again this year in May.

Connie Saindon

Pongo News:

Thank you for all the warm responses after the TV story.

Here’s a comment that came in from a teen: “Hey, I just wanted to say these poems are precious. I mean, I guess you know that. But now I know that, too. I’m a teenager, and to me poetry’s sort of a blanket to cover myself with, and it’s kind of big, right? Like, it covers everybody. It’s beautiful.”

Here’s the link to the KING5 story about Pongo Teen Writing in juvenile detention:

In addition, I have published a new blog, announcing the latest winner of the Pongo Poetry Prize — a poem “I Will Always Love You.” In the blog, I also feature the poem “Dear Mom” that Davina (a pseudonym) reads in the TV piece. These two poems are about the authors’ deep love for their parents in spite of terrible hurt.
My volunteers and I learn a lot from the teens who write with us!

Pongo Teen Writing Project

Poetry flows from teens behind bars


Posted on March 1, 2012 at 5:58 PM

I’ve always been drawn by the stories of people who make a difference in our community. I call those people our treasures. But so many of the people we introduce you to few know about. That’s the beauty of what we do, and this Making a Difference KING franchise. It’s to help give the recognition and attention the treasures in our community deserve.

The world needs to know about Richard Gold and his team of poet volunteers, Eli Hastings, Adrienne Johanson, Mike Hickey, and Vanessa Hooper. Photojournalist Doug Burgess and I got to see this team in action. I was in awe. Richard Gold runs the non-profit the Pongo Teen Writing Project. He’s reached 5,500 teens in the last 16 years.

“Pongo runs writing projects for youth who’ve suffered childhood traumas, such as abuse and neglect,” says Gold who was named a Microsoft Integral Fellow by the Microsoft Alumni Foundation in 2010 with $25,000 for Pongo.

“We work inside juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, and other sites. And we particularly focus our work on young people who have a hard time expressing themselves. Our primary purpose is to help our authors understand their feelings, build self-esteem, and take better control of their lives,” says Gold.

Check out Pongo’s website for more information on how they reach teens, and how they train counselors and teachers in their methods, which we got to see for ourselves, Talk about making a difference!

“We’ve produced 13 books, distributed 13,000 copies of our books and talked to 10,000 people in the community about the lives and poetry of our authors,” says Gold who does survyes with the teen poets afterwards. “Our surveys of Pongo authors indicate that 100 percent enjoy writing with Pongo. 70 percent write on issues they don’t normally talk about, 30 percent are new to poetry, and 95 percent expect to write more in the future.”

When you see our video piece that aired on KING 5 News, you’ll see I mentioned a particular poem “There Had To Have Been.” It’s extraordinary. Here it is in its entirety:

by a young woman in juvenile detention, age 14

He helps us cope with violent endings

For those directly affected, it is the start of a long and torturous process that will never make sense.


Nicole Brodeur

Seattle Times staff columnist


Dr. E.K. “Ted” Rynearson, expert on coping with the violent death of a loved one.

There was the house, engulfed in flames, after Josh Powell poured gas all around and set himself and his boys on fire.

There was the patrol car on the side of the road, where State Patrol Trooper Tony Radulescu parked for what he thought was a routine traffic stop.

We saw these images, again and again, in the newspaper and on TV, symbols of the violent deaths that have chilled our community in recent weeks.

But for those directly affected — those left behind — the images are just the start of a long and torturous process that will never make sense.

“This is a black hole when it comes to meaning or reason,” said Dr. E.K. “Ted” Rynearson.

Rynearson, 72, a psychiatrist at Virginia Mason Medical Center, has traveled the world treating those affected by violent death — from the survivors of 9/11 to those torn apart by war.

Rynearson’s treatment approach is called “restorative retelling,” which begins with stabilizing survivors’ capacity to deal with what they imagine their loved one’s death to have been like.

That seems like impossible work, when you consider the images and sounds from the Powell case, in particular. The burning house, the 911 calls from the social worker who took the young brothers to visit their father that day. The police reports that revealed that the boys had been hit with a hatchet before the fire.

We hear these things with sadness and detached curiosity.

But loved ones have to take them in, and try to carry on.

The initial response to violent death is denial, Rynearson said, and then most struggle with two kinds of responses:

Separation, which involves pining and yearning and wanting the person back; and avoidance, when the survivors want to push away any reminder of the violent death.

“That’s what’s confusing for survivors,” Rynearson said. “The way the person died pushes out how meaningful they were.”

Spirituality helps, because it diverts survivors from trying to come up with an answer. They turn to their God to sort it out.

“It stops people from thinking,” Rynearson said.

Taking action helps, too.

Chuck and Judy Cox, the grandparents of the Powell boys, are working through their grief by looking to change Washington state custody laws.

“You’re trying to find meaning and purpose,” Rynearson said of their efforts, “and sometimes the only way you can do it is legislatively.”

Rynearson has been looked to nationally for his work. In 1998, he received a grant that allowed him to bring clinicians from around the country to Seattle to learn his intervention model. One group came from an agency called Safe Horizons, in New York City.

Three years later, in the crazed days after 9/11, Safe Horizons called Rynearson for help.

Every week for the next three years, he spoke by phone with 12 social workers who ran 14 support groups for those who lost loved ones.

“Everyone was responding to the same tragedy,” Rynearson said. “They were left with a generic image, but also a private one about the way the person had died, whether they jumped or were in the twin towers when they collapsed or burned to death.”

The work gets to Rynearson, too, so he limits the hours, and rows every morning near his Bainbridge Island home to clear his head.

“Nature really helps me, in terms of establishing my own resilience,” he said. “It puts you in connection with something that I don’t have to be in control of.”

He strives to keep “a healthy sort of detachment” with his clients.

“I can have one foot in the traumatic imagery, but at the same time, I am pulling them away from it.”

All the while, he is offering them words that he hopes will lead them to something like the life they knew before someone set it ablaze or opened fire.

“Over time, hope will return,” Rynearson tells them. “Engagement in living will return. Trust in the future will return.

“It’s not going to get better, it’s going to get different. But you’re going to manage this.”


Survivors of Violent Loss exists to build a lifeline of hope and healing by providing support and education to those who live and work with violent death. Coping isn't easy. Survivors of Violent Loss can help. (619) 685-0005