Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Wishes, Lies, and Dreams" by Kenneth Koch

I fell in love with Kenneth Koch's poetry during my sophomore year of college.  A few years later, my parents gave me this book for Christmas, and I read it once, then set it aside.  But now that I am homeschooling my kids, I pulled it out again to see if maybe I could put some of his advice to work. Plus, April is National Poetry Month, so I felt sort of obligated to read something poetry-oriented.

The book is based on Koch's experience teaching grade school kids how to write poetry back in the '70s.  He explains the different things that he found worked well or worked badly, and he also includes a LOT of the poems written by the kids he taught.  They're exuberant and imaginative, not stilted or hesitant.

Koch found that most kids have an aptitude for writing poetry if you don't try to make them adhere to things like rhyme and meter, which tend to overwhelm and squelch them.  Instead he would give them a subject (wishes, lies, dreams, colors, sounds...) and a bit of form (start every line with "I wish" or include a color in every line, etc), and the kids would take it from there.

I helped my kids (ages 3 and 5) write  poetry on the subject of wishes last Friday, and they loved it!  In fact, my 5-year-old asked me to help him write a poem about recycling yesterday.  I'd say Koch's ideas work :-)

Also, if you're not a kid, but you're looking for a jump-start to your own poetry writing, his ideas work really well for adults too.

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