Real Poets Writing Project

rp-logo smPoetry is an incredibly adaptable form. A poem can take any size or shape, and bear any weight. Most importantly, poems can be about anything a poet needs to say. These qualities make the poem a perfect medium for the Real Poets Writing Project, in which young people who have lived hard lives can start to heal by writing poems.

Real Poets pairs trained volunteer mentors—each of them practicing poets—with young people who have been through a lot. It doesn’t matter whether a young poet has ever written before. All that matters is his or her willingness to be real and write from the heart.

In January, 2014 Real Poets will begin its third 10-week term at Turning Point Community Programs in south Sacramento. With mentors Kamila Baker, Denise Lichtig, and Alex Russell our young poets have all together written more than 200 new poems. In October, 916 Ink published a second collection of these in the anthology, Every Color You Could Think Of


Real Poets Sacramento is co-sponsored by the Sacramento Poetry Center and 916 Ink, with mentorship from Pongo Teen Writing Project-founder Richard Gold. Real Poets is led by Alex Russell, who volunteered as a poet mentor with Pongo in 2010. A writing professional and lecturer at UC Davis, he has taught grades K-12 in California, and has tutored in at-risk youth in Washington State.


I’m from a street where I hear gun shots or car tires screeching.
I’m from faith in God. He doesn’t
judge me. I’m from long line of people who care about me but are on my case
24/7. I’m from confusion about what’s good for me. I’m from laughter
over people making me smile.
I come from a blessed family.
I’m from love, and I know that because the people around me show it.
I’m from fear, especially when I think about what’s going to happen.
I come from a long line of shoe strings.
I come from experiences like going from here to there. I come from
Faith and Love. And I wish my life
would become Beautiful.



For more information about the Real Poets Writing Project, visit the project page online at, or email Alex at realpoetssac[at] Also be sure to check out 916 Ink and the Pongo Teen Writing Project.