Goldwater Poets


During my first Winter and Spring in New York, I volunteered with NYU’s Goldwater Writing Project, a writing workshop for students from NYU’s Graduate Creative Writing Program and residents of Coler-Goldwater Memorial Hospital. Sharon Olds started this unique and exciting program in 1984. (for recent information, click here).Each week, NYU students present the topics and guide the exercises. Volunteers assist patients in whatever ways are needed to put their verses on paper and to share them, toward the end of the workshop, with other participants.Unfailingly lively and often surprising, the Tuesday afternoons at Coler-Goldwater became a highlight of my week. The lessons were carefully prepared on clearly conceived topics with evocative words from well-known poets and engaging writing prompts. Patients’ personalities (they call themselves the Golden Writers) surfaced immediately in the task at hand. Everyone in the room was enlivened by the exchange and the words, by what was said and the silences.I often scribed for Tamika Walker. The first Tuesday in March, 2004, the lesson involved considerations of abstract and concrete, precisely chosen metaphors and similes, and voice. Many of the patients had been together for years, and the notion of “saying it your way, not everyone else’s way” sparked lively comments and laughter. As usual, Tamika had words ready as soon as the writing portion of the afternoon began. She wished to write about letters she had received after her name and photograph had appeared in a newspaper article about the Golden Writers.Each Spring, NYU hosts an evening for the Golden Writers. The Goldwater residents read, a bound selection of their work is available, and a well-known author reads and is honored. In Spring 2007, the reading was dedicated to the memory of Tamika Walker. Here, with joyous memory of the poet and true appreciation for the Goldwater Writing Project, is her poem from March 2004.ExcitementFrom the pot of goldcame spaghetti fan mail.One really long piece.Two soft tissue pageswith a sweet candy photo –pink flowered horses and a soft goat.‘Dear Tamika and Friends,’she writes letters read in thegreen Indian voice of the clerk.She could not finish, had to work.I paint my feelings.A sandy beach, yellowbelow a pink skythat smells like red rosesand tastes like chocolate.Two paintings open up from me.The other—Mika on horsebackin the wind racing another horse,my sister, laughing, big as an eagle.In a seashell, I hear the horse neigh.I read my letters.Tamika Walker3/2/04