Their writing captures all the power and fire of youth, charged with the individual struggles they have faced in their daily lives, about subjects large and small, dramatic and everyday -- love, broken relationships, gang violence, domestic abuse, time, moving, motherhood.
I am a tornado: wild, black, scary, and mean.
I arrived so fast nobody was ready for me.
Those are the first two lines from "Tornado," a poem by Jailenne Perez, one of the editors of Nautilus II, a journal of poetry and art produced by students from The Care Center in Holyoke, a GED program for teen mothers.
Perez was one of a dozen students from The Care Center who read their work in the Taber Art Gallery Wednesday in a celebration of poetry sponsored by the HCC Library.
"These young women who have a lot on their plates have made the decision to come back and finish their educations and make a brighter future for themselves," said Tzivia Gover, a poetry teacher at The Care Center and an adjunct professor of literature at HCC. "We applaud them, whether or not they get up and read their poems today."
The current issue of Nautilus II is the center's 10th annual edition and includes some 80 poems and more than two dozen photographs. The journal is part of the reason the center was honored in 2011 with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, presented at The White House to director Anne Teschner by none other than First Lady Michelle Obama.
In addition to classes that prepare them to take their GED test, the center also offers a poetry class. Many of the poems students read began as exercises, Gover said, inspired by prompts she supplies.
"I think we were picking colors," said student Priscilla Colon, explaining the inspiration behind her poem, "Sadness into Anger." "I picked black."
The Care Center students have done other public readings, at the Odyssey book shop in South Hadley and Barnes and Noble in Holyoke, but this is the first time they have been invited to read their work at HCC, Gover said.
"It's very important and meaningful to be doing this at the college," she said, "because all these young women are aspiring to come here. Being invited makes them feel welcome -- and important."
Kimberly Chambers was the first to read, a poem about packing a suitcase. "She's a wonderful teacher," Chambers said of Gover. "I get my inspiration from whatever she suggests."
For Juliannes Cuevas, this was the first time she had ever done a public reading.
She read a poem titled, "Think About What You Think About."
If one times one is one, why is one plus one two? ...
Since when is the sum not the answer?
Why, when it's the product, of course!
"I was nervous" Cuevas said, "but it was exciting."
Photos: (Left) Care Center student Priscilla Colon reads a poem at HCC. (Right) Care Center students gather in the Taber Art Gallery arounnd poetry teacher Tzivia Gover.