I NEVER TOLD ANYBODY. . . Teaching Poetry Writing in a Nursing Home by Kenneth Koch
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I NEVER TOLD ANYBODY. . . Teaching Poetry Writing in a Nursing Home

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What Koch did with schoolchildren--coax poetry from the most reluctant--he has now accomplished with the elderly residents of a nursing home. Although confinement and aging presented new obstacles, he and his confederates (two social workers and another poet) encouraged, cajoled, and acted as amanuenses; he proposed subject and form each time, steering the writers away from conventional responses and the tyranny of rhyme. As before, he started with the most accessible things--colors, quiet times--and proceeded to more demanding (and rewarding) areas--secrets, lies, the mixed blessings of age: ""At sixty--there were grandchildren, but no more wild strawberries."" Reading their work aloud increased enthusiasm and improved expression, and reading great works helped too; by far his most successful idea was the introduction of music--Vivaldi, jazz, Celtic harps--to unleash sensations, moods, memories. As in Wishes, Lies, and Dreams and Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, the results are tentative, exploratory, increasingly assured; at least one fine poet--William Ross--emerged (""They couldn't tell me anything when I had that pair of pants"") and several others showed promise. Koch has a talent of his own--for rousing the diffident and cherishing spirit and style.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1977
Publisher: Random House