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Poet in the classroom

Poet in the classroom

December 1973: Myra Cohn Livingston chats with third-graders at Beverly Vista Elementary School. Livingston is the poet-in-residence with the Beverly Hills School District.

Staff writer Lynn Williston explains in in the Dec. 23, 1973, Los Angeles Times:

Children are born with a natural love of poetry and rhyme, but it doesn’t last long if their teacher starts drumming away at punctuation and pentameter and makes an ordeal out of it.

“This is very sad,” says Myra Cohn Livingston. “The minute you start making a lesson out of poetry, children lose interest.”

Fortunately, Mrs. Livingston is in a position to spread the joy of poetry. It’s apparently a unique position: She is poet-in-residence of the Beverly Hills School District, possibly the only lower-school system with such a personage.

“It’s not just another frill for an affluent school district, according to Supt. Kenneth L. Peters, who hired Mrs. Livingston.

“There can be disadvantaged children among the affluent too,” he said. “Poetry is a vehicle of communication and frequently strikes a spark with those who are resistant to learning and have problems of one type or another. Poetry is a release, a communications device, a beautiful learning tool.”

Under the set-up which Peters and Mrs. Livingston worked out a year ago, she goes to classrooms only to present a supplemental program on poetry. The teachers who utilize her services usually ask her to visit once a month.

“She has been in constant demand,” said Peters, “because she brings a background and knowledge and understanding to an area where most teachers are not completely equipped. Only a handful have resisted the idea, and they are teachers who are not comfortable having another teacher in the classroom. But she has been accepted even by our people who are very skilled in this area because they realize there are as many kinds of poets as there are other kinds of writers. She brings them a new dimension.”  …

Mrs. Livingston continued as poet-in-residence until 1984. She died in 1996. Her Los Angeles Times obituary is online: Myra Cohn Livingston; Children’s Poet, Anthologist.

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