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An Outlet for Anger, and Fear

On a day soon after the reading, several youths sat in white plastic chairs in a windowless room at the D.C. jail, chins in palms, as a videotape replayed the reading for those who had created the poems. They wore oversize orange jail jumpsuits with pant legs rolled and cuffed over jail-issue slippers or expensive basketball sneakers whose laces had been removed.

"That . . . made me feel good to see somebody laughing and clapping at what I wrote," said Kuron Calleo, 17, who lived in the Sursum Corda housing complex in Northwest. "It was hard thinking about it. It was my first time doing something like that."

Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop participants, from left to right, Anthony Parker, 17, Delonte King, 16, and Lamarzs Wilson, 17. (Photos Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

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Delonte King, 16, of Northwest, was there, too. King, who pleaded guilty to armed robbery, seems resigned to his predicament, with some adolescent, macho bluster. But King could not hide his smile as the tape rolled. Though he did not know reader Eryn Trimmer, he recognized the words of his poem "Gorilla":

I feel like an untamed gorilla

With no cage or food

Walking around in society

With no ending or beginning

King cocked his right arm and raised a fist in triumph as the audience applauded his work.

"I'm just proud of myself because I was doing something constructive," he said.

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