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Like Kenneth Koch (Rose Where Did You Get That Red?, 1973, and Wishes, Lies and Dreams, 1970) Lopate teaches creative writing in New York City elementary schools, and this is another wonderfully enthusiastic memoir of a poet's interaction with irrepressible children. Lopate however gives us more of himself, more of the youngsters, more of the school environment he functions in, and a far cooler, critical look at the romantic assumptions and stylistic manipulation such a program encourages. Unlike many of the young, freewheeling, liberally educated writers on the public school system, Lopate is sympathetic with the principals and older teachers he meets in his work, and he doesn't sentimentalize the engaging, highly energetic, often disruptive kids he works with, or exaggerate the extent of his effect on them or overplay the power of poets, programs, or school reform. Too, though Lopate's initial concern was with ""releasing children's imaginations,"" he ended up committed to teaching ""the discipline of sticking to something."" Certainly no Broadway opening could be more exciting, no director's log more suspenseful and exhilarating, than Lopate's notebook on the sixth grade production of West Side Story--a child-initiated project he resisted at first as he considered the play romantic kitsch unworthy of his sophisticated performers. But for all his zest, openness and wit, it is Lopate's tough good sense that makes this poet-teacher's account an exceptional one.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1975
Publisher: Doubleday