Workshop > Activist
Apr 12


Think about your poetry. Do you think you have written a poem with activist intent? Or maybe you have written one unintentionally. Activist poetry does not have to be overt. Often the most powerful activist poetry is subtle. Look back at your writing and edit one of your activist poems to strengthen it. Or write a new one. Choose any topic that matters to you, including, but not limited to: race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, language, guns, privilege, climate change. Here are recent examples from YWP: Nightheart’s “To All the People Who Hate Muslims;” and from my blog, “Cages," and "Speak." Due April 19

- Alexandra Contreras-Montesano
Any questions or comments? Contact me on my YWP blog
Photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash

Challenge Responses

Apr 29


It crept up so slowly I could barely hear its hollowed footsteps. It crept up
soft as April creeps up
when you can barely tell the beginning of spring
from the end of autumn.

I didn’t always have words. Now I can reach a bucket down inside my chest,
draw up pails full of them, but then
I didn’t know the words for the curve of her neck is so smooth
her hair makes my skin feel on fire
her smile makes me want to hold her hand.

Didn’t have the words for
shouldn’t tell your friends this
to say
it’s not my job to correct the blunders of every family member
to respond to
was he a nice boy?
when I went on a date with a girl.

So now April has crept up, and
the sun warm on my skin almost makes me miss winter, makes me miss
not having to justify my existence
to chirping birds, woodpeckers hammering my house.

Today I know the words
Apr 15

Boxed in

(Written in response to the challenge "Activist" in the workshop, Poetry with Alexandra Contreras-Montesano)

I am underestimated.

People look at me and see an average white American teenager.
13 years old
With medium length brown hair
With a quick smile and and a quicker tongue.

But people never stick around enough to find out more.
Even my closest friends have yet to scratch the surface of my dreams.

I've heard all my life that I'd better marry a wealthy husband who loves me and I'll have a good life.

But maybe I don't want wealth.
Maybe I'm not looking for a Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet
I'm not some damsel in distress.
I can take care of myself thank you very much.

I want to go to college and meet new people
And have new experiances
And learn new things
Mar 18

To all the people who hate Muslims

To all the people who hate Muslims.

Do I scare you? They call it Islamophobia after all.

Do I scare you? Does my family scare you?

Let me give you a summary of us, in case you didn’t really know us all that well.

Standing at about 5 foot 2 inches,
With big, bushy, fuzzy hair
And a penchant for zoning out and
Always having graphite-stained fingers.

My sister,
10 years old, who once made
Her own little snack dispenser
Out of a cardboard box and some tape.

My father,
Who makes us pancakes in the mornings,
Who loves gardening and prides himself
On making food out of our own vegetables
In the summers.

My mother,
Who drinks more tea than seems humanly possible
who’s just finishing up her dissertation now,
And loves dancing to any song, anywhere.

Are you scared of us? Because that seems a little silly at this point, doesn’t it?
Feb 12


When I walk into a bakery in the
Mexican neighborhood of Philly
where the menu is written in my first tongue
I am so visible that I shine
bright white and the forty-something cashier
switches to rough English when she checks me out.

If I greet her in Spanish she might tilt her head
and rake her eyes up and down my body
like it is something foreign.
Like we weren’t made from the same wool.

It’s my fault
I knit my pale blanket so closely
around my skin and teeth that
my voice only dances in one language,
and for a rare time, I am silent.
Jun 24


I want my mother
at night.
When my body catches up with my mind
and my face unfolds from sleep so I can
remember every detail of the dream that woke me.

I want my mother
at night.
When I stumble from my raised bed to hers
two rooms down and to the left.
Her covers are better,
her arms warmer,
her breath reassuring.

I want my mother
at night.
When I lose my first tooth
and I don't know if the fairy will come
because I might have put it under my pillow too late.

I want my mother
at night.
When she keeps the light on in her room
while she reads the bills until the morning.

I want my mother 
at night.
When the shouting reverberates in my ears,
about how what we have is not enough
How the crops are nothing compared to NAFTA.

I want my mother
at night.
When the days are getting longer