Poetry, Inc. 

Building teen bards in the Island City.

Time was, a teen girl poet was easy to spot -- look for the black nail polish and the Smiths pin or, earlier, the Joni Mitchell album tucked under her arm. And always -- Sylvia Plath's Ariel. But no longer. Says Erin Sander, program specialist for Girls Incorporated of the Island City: "Four of [the girls] right now already write poetry on a regular basis, they all love to dance and do hip-hop, so this is going to be a good week for them."

The week in question is the one starting this Monday, Exploring the Arts, in which the thirteen-to-sixteen-year-olds in her charge will investigate different means of self-expression. Among other activities, they'll be attending a hip-hop dance class and working with local poet Patricia Edith in the art of poetry writing. Their metered efforts will go into a book, which the girls will design themselves, and which will be displayed this Friday at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts.

The young women in the eight-week program have already had a pretty full season. "We've had a photography week," Sander says. "We did one about the future, where we did résumés and we had a palm reader come in and we went to Cal. We did a nature week, where we started a garden and went to a nursery." Coming up are a sports and outdoors portion, and a week where the girls get to pick what they want to do.

Girls Incorporated is a nonprofit that began in 1864. Its mission of inspiring girls "to be strong, smart, and bold" has since spread to all fifty states and into Canada. The majority of Girls Inc. centers are in low-income areas, and in 2002, the group reached 685,000 through its Web site, affiliates, and educational publications. The Web site www.girlsinc.org is a great information source for parents and teachers, with a "Girls' Bill of Rights," and information on girls and sexuality, violence, substance abuse, literacy, media, and more.

The Frank Bette Center is located at 1601 Paru St., Alameda, and is open Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more info, call 510-523-6957.

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