Is that a poem in yr pocket?

(Originally posted on March 1 &April 1,2008)

I met Kenneth Koch once.

"Rose, where did you get that red?"
I love this book so much. It is tattered like no other book I own. When I worked with elementary school kids through the arts council I used this book religiously. I also used it in classrooms and after school programs. It is a beautiful rare book.
Koch used great poetry to teach children how to be to harness what already lived inside their endless imaginations. He taught kids to soar and through his books I was able to teach poetry to even the very young kindergartners. This book should be in yr house because poetry is accessible to all of us. We all think and we all process and if we can learn the road from the mind to the pen, then we will soar. I have been reading Finnian poems for a long time and just now I am starting to create poems with him. I am teaching him that words are powerful and can help him express his feelings. I am giving him small gifts for the future. Gifts that might not unfold themselves for decades, but one day he will hear the lines from a poem, perhaps a Blake poem:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
in the forests of the night

and his mind will twist and stretch for a bit
and he will think back to the home he grew up in
and he will smile and remember that his mom said it was true
poetry makes you feel

This poetry prompt is from another of Ken Koch's books that I love - "Wishes, Lies, and Dreams".

Third Eye Poems
The third eye can see what regular eyes can’t or is only open when the regular eyes are closed. It is a magical eye.
We made third eyes out of paper and taped them to our foreheads. We wore them through breakfast and then "wrote" our poems. The best way to unfold this lesson with older kids is to encourage them to imagine ANYTHING! In school I always told kids they could see ANYTHING! Tell them that they can be serious or funny or sad or scared. Give them freedom. Give them power.
With younger children just allowing them to ramble on about what they can imagine is great! I let Finn spin a whole story and then we sat down and I prompted him by saying, "My Third Eye Can See..." and he just filled in the poem. His poems were so funny and charming.

Here are some of the examples from my old school. A simple lesson like this was a very powerful tool for my elementary kids. Power is king. In the neighborhood where my school and recreation center stood- there was much violence and worry. It was powerful for the kids to be in control of their daily life...if even for 15 minutes in a poetry workshop.

B. Age 9
My third eye can see the teachers underwear
and Teddy Johnson dancing
and the whole school upside down
it can see candy floating all around us

L. Age 8
My third eye can see me that is scared of the shots at night
it can see my mom and she is happy and not sad

T. Age 10
My third eye can see all the way down Hallidon Ave and Kiya ain't dead anymore
it can see the bad people and it stares at them till they run away
down Monroe St and don't bother us
they disappear and it is summer every day