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The Groundwork: WITS Writer Mark Pomeroy shares the writing prompt behind a student's poem from the 2019 WITS Anthology

Collected by Joanna Rose

Skipping Class
Benjamin M., Benson High School

Car wheels rolling across cold concrete
Brown boots falling like autumn leaves
I sit here on this bus stop
Hands cold and lips chapped
I watch the flow of life in front of me
school bus
blue bike
All going where they need to be
My breath is moist and warm
I gaze off into the grey blanketed sky
and my phone buzzes

Writer Mark Pomeroy says this of how the poem came to be:

I showed the kids this poem from a former WITS student of mine, Mohamed M., at Madison:

What I See

The pond is empty.
Trees trapped by fences, as if in jail.

Colors of leaves—
yellow, orange, green.

Skies covered with gray clouds, as if blue was locked up.

I shared that Mohamed came to the US from Somalia.  He’d spent two years of his childhood in a refugee camp.  The camp was surrounded by barbed wire.  

I asked the kids to note how Mohamed’s lenses on the world shaped his poem. I also shared that Mohamed took the time to slow down, enter the moment, and jot whatever he saw.  Benjamin got out of his seat and gazed out a window for several minutes, notebook in hand, and he was the last one to return to his seat.

The steps:

1.  Go ahead and look out the windows—as a writer.  Slow down and notice as many details as you can.  Make a list.

2.  Reread your list.  Cross out anything that doesn’t feel alive and crisp.

3.  Write a quick first draft of a poem.  Feel free to connect images to anything else that comes to mind.

Ben came up to me after these steps and said, “I sort of riffed.  I imagined myself noticing details at my bus stop.”  

I said, “Cool.”  

He said, “Want to read it?”  

I said, “Yep.”

I love that Ben (especially in that insane classroom atmosphere) felt the imaginative freedom and boldness to follow where the images and lines took him.  He found, and honored, the flow.

To Break the Stillness is available for $10 here.

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