When You Are Alone/It Keeps You Capone: 04/14/15
When You Are Alone/It Keeps You Capone by Myra Cohn Livingston takes its title from the first two lines of one of the many sample poems. The purpose of the book is to help teachers do a better job of teaching children how to write poetry.
Good poetry does three things: it follows a form, it tells a story, and it evokes an emotion. Livingston argues that most teachers at least get the idea of the different forms of poetry and can get kids cranking out poetry that is technically correct but lacks heart and soul. The very best in her experience, are also able to get their students to tell a story.
But the emotional piece of poetry is an elusive one. Thematic poems (say, a winter one) will get everyone expecting certain words and images even if they are completely irrelevant for the local collective experience. Livingston taught in the Los Angeles area. Time and time again in the book she brings up the importance of making the poem true to yourself and your situation.
The other important lesson to take away from the book is the amount of work a single poem requires, especially for beginning poets. Getting a poem to fit a form isn't where one stops. It needs revision, testing aloud, and lots and lots of persistence and patience.