“Magic Poem” by Justice W.


Most people think that writing a poem

is just about rhyme or the way it sounds,

but I think it’s about being able

to feel what the writer is feeling


and get the same point of view as theirs.

It doesn’t have to be about “roses are red”

or “violets are blue.” It can be about

the way you feel, and how others feel too.


Theirs may be types of styles of poems,

but the one u write is your own.

So what are u waiting for? Create your

own magic and put it on paper…




Visual Art & Graphic Design in ChiKalei

Visual art and graphic design are elements that are integrated into Chicago Kaleidoscopes. Here are several examples:

  • We have used visual art as inspiration for creative writing projects that CK teens have developed. Teens have written ekphrastic poetry (poetry inspired by visual art works). Read Faith’s poem “Underwater You Are,” which is inspired by Chicago-based artist Philip Hanson’s painting Poem without Words: Blue Swallows.
  • CK teens design and make their own chapbooks. As they prepare to make their handmade chapbooks, we talk about how graphic design goes into the design and printing of books — e.g. typography, book cover color schemes, and so on.
  • We have talked about how graphic design relates to creative writing and running a business, for instance how graphic design goes into product development and development. Several guest speakers who have talked with CK teens, such as Christen Carter from Busy Beaver Button Co. and Tanner McSwain from Uncharted Books, have facilitated discussions about connections between graphic design, writing, and other aspects of running a business.

Creative writing is one central focus of Chicago Kaleidoscopes, but other art forms and subjects inform CK’s pedagogy. A particular art form can be studied and explored on its own, and it is fascinating when different art forms are brought into the mix — especially when creative teens demonstrate what wonderful arts projects they can develop and complete.

— Dan G.



“Ode to the Atmosphere” by Justin W.


Atmosphere, oh atmosphere,

our kind atmosphere—

without you how

would we survive?

We couldn’t.


Atmosphere, at times you’re dramatic

and destructive, with hurricanes

and tornadoes flying by, sharp blasts

from Lake Michigan in the Windy City.


Atmosphere, oh atmosphere,

at times our calm atmosphere,

with flocks of birds flying

in peaceful blue spring skies.



“Pop Goes the Dream” by JaHai and Jonathan


The man with a hot air balloon

Had a vision

To trot the globe

A goal he had to accomplish.


The man with a hot air balloon

Looked Trouble in his face

Wing guzzling at the ropes

Deadly angling of transportation


The man with a hot air balloon

Gave his all and more

Yet he knew his faith wasn’t good

As he crashed into the doleful ground



The man without a hot air balloon

Lost so much but gained more

Knowing the sky isn’t home for everyone

It is a privilege and not a right





Theater Games

Chicago Kaleidoscopes is listed as a Creative Writing ASM program, and in many ways CK is also an interdisciplinary program. Other art forms such as music, theater, drawing and painting inform CK’s pedagogy. We’ve found that there are many amazing ways by which different art forms can “speak to” and resonate with each other, and multimodal ways of exploring subjects can enrich what teens create and learn. The theory of multiple intelligences informs the pedagogy here too — everybody has different learning styles, and embracing different ways of learning and encouraging different means of self-expression can contribute to a rich educational and artistic environment.

Theater games have been fun, recurring rituals of sorts that has informed CK sessions since last July. Sometimes I come up with the prompts that frame the theater games, and other times the teens have come up with ideas that have driven theater games that we have used.

In addition, CK teens can re-explore themes and other elements of theater games that they have participated in, as they continue working on poems, short stories, and other literary works. They can dive into memories of theater games they were part of, and integrate details of theater games into literary works that appear on the page — or which later can be worked into inter- or transmedia works that have other artistic elements such as audio, video, collage, etc.

— Dan G.


“Beautiful You Are” by Nykisha H.


Beautiful you are…

Yes, you fine soul sistah

Yes, you rocking that curly fro.


Beautiful you are…

Yes, you holding that diploma

in your hand, hugging

your grandmother with the other.


Beautiful you are…

Yes, you rocking that business suit,

pulling up in that 3 Series Benz.


Beautiful you are…

Yes, you walking down that aisle—

awaiting is your husband with a gigantic smile.


Beautiful you are…

Rocking that pregnancy glow,

carrying that sweet baby girl,

who you’ll call baby Halo.


Beautiful you are…

Stamina is a strong Black woman,

you who possesses beauty.


Beautiful you are…

you who possesses virtue,

you who possesses spirituality.


Beautiful you are…

you who possesses success and worth,

you who have risen.



“Black Panther in the Lincoln Park Zoo” by Emil S.


I’m a black panther in the Lincoln Park Zoo,

strong and powerful. The black panther is unique

because few animals are perfectly black.


The black panther is a huge cat whose color

provides good camouflage at night, so it can catch

its prey and avoid dangerous enemies.


My brothers and sisters live in rainforests in Africa.

Please help the black panther—it’s trying to do

its job of being a part of nature.


Black Panther - Toshi Yoshida

above: Black Panther by Tōshi Yoshida. Woodblock Print. 1987.



Opportunities for Teens

Here are some opportunities for teens —

Click here to find out about other opportunities for teens found on the Chicago Kaleidoscopes website. (Some of these opportunities, such as creative writing contests, have seasonal or annual deadlines, whereas others are ongoing / rolling.)

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“Letter to My Future Child” by Jada B.


Life isn’t going to offer you many roads

But I hope you choose the road to success

Stay in school

Stay away from drugs

Stay around people who inspire you to do better things

Stay around people who bring out the best in you

But on your journey from toddler to eventually adult

I want you to know that i will always have your back

I will always inspire you

I will always guide you towards a life of happiness and success

No matter what mistakes you make I will always love you

As long as you stay by my side, I’ll always protect yours

The best advice I can give you is to think about everything you do

And remember

I’ll always love you