When WITS writers teach a lesson, they don’t have to look far for inspiration. WITS writers understand that everything in the world is up for grabs when it comes to engaging subject matter. We encourage children to look at the world around them and pick objects and activities that resonate with what they like to do.
I remember one 3rd grade boy named Sebastian who could never think of new subject matter. He often complained that he didn’t want to write “dumb poems about flowers and stars.” So, I asked him what he liked to do and found out he loves to ride his bike. The following week I brought him a poem called “Ode to Bicycles” by Pablo Neruda. Neruda’s poem didn’t have a magical effect on Sebastian’s poetic output (he still had a hard time getting started), but it did seem to surprise him.
May is National Bicycle Month, and I always think of Sebastian and wonder where he is and what he is writing about as a teenager. In honor of Sebastian, here is another bicycle poem.
Maybe Alone On My Bike
I listen, and the mountain lakes
hear snowflakes come on those winter wings
only the owls are awake to see,
their radar gaze and furred ears
alert. In that stillness a meaning shakes;
And I have thought (maybe alone
on my bike, quaintly on a cold
evening pedaling home), Think!–
the splendor of our life, its current unknown
as those mountains, the scene no one sees.
O citizens of our great amnesty:
we might have died. We live. Marvels
coast by, great veers and swoops of air
so bright the lamps waver in tears,
and I hear in the chain a chuckle I like to hear.
By William Stafford
by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools