Dear Alicia Ostriker,

I cannot get these images out of my head;

Past the Riverside Church and the Fairway
Market, past the water treatment plant
and in the dusky triangle below
a hulk of rusted railroad bed
a single hooded boy shooting hoops

This stanza opened my eyes to the whole other level of imagery a poem can have. I am a sixth grader attending Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C. I read your poems “Biking to the George Washington Bridge” and “The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog” and they really intrigued me. The way you set the scene for the poems and your description of every little detail makes both poems stand out. It’s almost as if a movie has started to play in my mind and it shows all the things included in your poems.

In “Biking to the George Washington Bridge,” your first stanza describes everything about the scene, making me feel as if I am standing right there experiencing everything with you. When you talk about the

cherry blossoms abloom along
Riverside Drive from the clouds above
it is all kerfluffle,

I can imagine riding my bike right alongside you past the trees and seeing the cherry blossoms and then riding on to pass the church. The language you use to accompany these images makes them that much more specific. You could have just said the clouds and trees looked alike, but you used words like “kerfluffle” to depict the exact look of the cherry blossoms against the sky and that really stood out to me. I had to look up the word to understand the meaning but now that I know it, the poem makes total sense and I can now use it in future poems I will write myself. When you describe the beauty of the flower in the poem “The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog,” you write about the flower’s looks knocking out the eyes of whoever saw it with its “upended skirt.” That’s a really unique and different way to describe a flower yet I totally know the emotion that you were trying to express. All of this really adds to the rest poem and supports the rest of the story.

The rest of “Biking to the George Washington Bridge” is like a story being told. The way it’s written kind of like a voiceover in a movie. The descriptions are so specific and you even take the time to include the timing of everything that took place. In the second stanza you write how the bridge is ten minutes away and you are eight minutes away from the boys shooting hoops. I think it just shows how precise and specific you are with your poems and how clear you want each image to be. I’ve always liked to use images but I now know how to extend those images and really make them seem like live scenes. This is a skill I am eager to try in my own poems.

This poem showed me just how much writing can depict a real life experience and how choice of words can determine the details and descriptiveness of each stanza.


Grade 6
Washington, D. C.