Myra Cohn Livingston, born on August 17, 1926, was an extraordinary poet and educator whose commitment to children’s poetry created a rich legacy. With over 25 books to her name and countless individual poems, Livingston’s work has made a lasting impact on children’s literature. Her passion for poetry and the creative use of language has inspired generations of young readers and writers.
Early Life and Education
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Livingston grew up in a home filled with music and books. As a child, she studied the French horn, which she began playing professionally at the age of 14. After high school, she studied at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she began crafting her first poems.
A Prolific Writer
Myra Cohn Livingston’s career as a children’s poet was both extensive and influential. She began publishing her poems in children’s magazines in the 1950s, leading to her first book, Whistler’s Locomotive, in 1955. Over the years, she produced numerous volumes of poetry, exploring themes like family, nature, history, and emotions through her insightful and expressive verses.
Her books include There Was a Place: And Other Poems (1988), Space Songs (1988), and Call Down the Moon: Poems of Music (1995), among others. Each of her poems offers a fresh perspective and a unique way to look at the world around us, with a distinct voice that speaks directly to children’s hearts and minds.
Teaching and Mentoring
Livingston’s contributions to children’s literature extend beyond her writings. She was a dedicated teacher and mentor, passionate about instilling a love for poetry in young people. As a poet-in-residence at various schools and a professor at UCLA, Livingston worked with students, inspiring them to embrace poetry and guiding them in their creative journeys.
She also developed a teaching guide titled Poem-making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry, designed to help teachers foster creativity and poetic skills in their students. This guide continues to be a valuable resource for educators seeking to introduce children to the joys of poetry.
An Advocate for Children’s Poetry
Myra Cohn Livingston was more than just a poet and educator; she was a tireless advocate for children’s poetry. She believed that poetry was an essential part of children’s education, offering not just entertainment but also a profound understanding of language, rhythm, and emotions.
Livingston worked hard to promote children’s poetry, serving on panels, leading workshops, and editing anthologies that showcased the best of children’s verse. For example, her anthology What a Wonderful Bird the Frog Are: An Assortment of Humorous Poetry and Verse (1973) brings together diverse voices of both traditional and modern children’s poetry.
Awards and Recognition
Throughout her career, Livingston received numerous awards and honors, reflecting her immense contribution to children’s literature. Some of her accolades include the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children and the Kerlan Award from the University of Minnesota. Additionally, the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California, which she helped create, now gives an award called the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry.
Legacy and Influence
Myra Cohn Livingston passed away on August 23, 1996, but her influence endures. Her dedication to children’s poetry continues to resonate with readers, educators, and fellow poets. Her work is celebrated for its mastery of form, rhythmic precision, and ability to engage young readers.
Her passion for poetry as a means of expression and education has left a rich legacy that continues to inspire children and adults alike. Livingston’s books remain in print, and her poems are often included in anthologies, ensuring that her voice continues to reach new generations of readers.
Myra Cohn Livingston was a true master of children’s poetry, a gifted writer, and an inspiring teacher. Her commitment to the art of poetry and her belief in its importance in children’s lives made her a prominent figure in the literary world.
Her work, filled with imagination, rhythm, and beauty, not only entertains but also educates, encouraging children to explore the world through words. The legacy she has left behind is a testament to her talent, vision, and love for poetry. Her voice lives on in her poems, continuing to charm, inspire, and enlighten young readers around the globe.