WRITING YOUR LIFE STORIES CLASS – Winter Session 2016 “I AM FROM” Writing this poem stimulates more of your memories and upbringing. It is personal and should reflect specific feelings about your life and memories. Revise it as often as you wish but keep the old drafts. This exercise is expremely fun. Don’t forget the humor. Keep it simple and short, if you can.
The exercise is based on the original poem by George Ella Lyon. Write answers from your own family experiences and clump them together in sections or stanzas. Preface each section or stanza with I am from…. Prompts you might consider: .Grandparents and parents names .Special food and meals .Family-specific games or activities .Details about your house .Memorable places .Nostalgic songs .Smells, tastes, textures .Stories, novels or poetry that you’ll never forget .Words and phrases repeated often .Ordinary household items .The best things you were ever told .Worst things you were ever told .Family Traditions .Accidents or traumatic experiences .Losses, pain .Family Traits .Colors, flowers, growing things .Moods, joys, learning .Pets, animals
The original, Where I’m From poem: Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon I am from clothespins. from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. I am from the dirt under the back porch. (Black, glistening, it tasted like beets.) I am from the forsythia bush, the Dutch elm whose long-gone limbs I remember as if they were my own. I’m from fudge and eyeglasses, from Imogene and Alafair. I’m from the know-it-alls and the pass-it-ons, from Perk Up! and Pipe Down! I’m from restoreth my soul with a cottonball lamb and ten verses I can say myself. I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch fried corn and strong coffee. From the finger my grandfather lost to the auger the eye my father shut to keep his sight. Under my bed was a dress box spilling old pictures, a sift of lost facts to drift beneath my dreams. I am from those moments— snapped before I budded— leaf-fall from the family tree. Others: “I Am From” by Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World I am from Avis and Frank, Agnes and Fred, Glessie May and Mark. From the Ozark Mountains and the high plains of eastern Colorado, from mountain snowmelt and southern creeks with water moccasins. I am from oatmeal eaters, gizzard eaters, haggis and raccoon eaters. I am from craziness, darkness, sensuality, and humor. From intense do-gooders struggling through ranch winters in the 1920s. I am from “If you can’s say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything,” and “Pretty is as pretty does” and “Shit-muckelty brown” and “Damn it all to hell.” I am from no-dancing-or-drinking Methodists, but cards were okay except on Sunday, and from tent- meeting Holy Rollers, from farmers, soldiers, bootleggers, and teachers. I am from Schwinn girl’s bike, 1950 Mercury two-door, and West Side Story. From coyotes, baby field mice, chlorinous swimming pools, Milky way and harvest moon over Nebraska cornfields. I am from muddy Platte and Republican, From cottonwood and mulberry, tumbleweed and switchgrass, From Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, and Janis Joplin. My own sweet dance unfolding against a cast of women in aprons and barefoot men in overalls.
A Young Artist’s Own Where I’m From by Sage Hennequin Kuhens Write Here, Write Now I’m from big blue herons to small river otters, I’m from big Metasequioas to tall stalks of bamboo, I’m from cousins that were unknown to the closest of friends. I’m from my mom and dad to my lab-beagle dog, albino rats, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches, I’m from roaring waterfalls to silent flowing streams, I’m from terrifying Zombie walks and Scarowinds to a gentle princess-loving godsister and godbrother. I’m from pepperoni pizza to microwaved meatballs, I’m from my old dog Chani to red-shouldered hawks. I’m from Jack the magic clown to my weird parents, I’m from a tiny baby to an educated sister showing baby MinMin what school’s like. I’m from bold looking deer to relaxing foxes, I’m from making a fire in the country to ridin’ in a cotton combine. I’m from a fan of Alexa Vega and Miley Cyrus to a spy lovin’ tween (me). I’m from playing with cockroaches with a friend to Joe and I together. I’m from my heritages to Mom’s mystery heritages, I have an opinion that none can change…life if great! ---------------------------- From the website for George Ella Lyon “it all connects” “Where I'm From” grew out of my response to a poem from Stories I Ain't Told Nobody Yet (Orchard Books, 1989; Theater Communications Group, 1991) by my friend, Tennessee writer Jo Carson. All of the People Pieces, as Jo calls them, are based on things folks actually said, and number 22 begins, “I want to know when you get to be from a place. ” Jo's speaker, one of those people “that doesn't have roots like trees, ” tells us “I am from Interstate 40” and “I am from the work my father did. ” “In the summer of 1993, I decided to see what would happen if I made my own where-I'm-from lists, which I did, in a black and white speckled composition book. I edited them into a poem — not my usual way of working — but even when that was done I kept on making the lists. The process was too rich and too much fun to give up after only one poem. Realizing this, I decided to try it as an exercise with other writers, and it immediately took off. The list form is simple and familiar, and the question of where you are from reaches deep.” “Since then, the poem as a writing prompt has traveled in amazing ways. People have used it at their family reunions, teachers have used it with kids all over the United States, in Ecuador and China; they have taken it to girls in juvenile detention, to men in prison for life, and to refugees in a camp in the Sudan. Its life beyond my notebook is a testimony to the power of poetry, of roots, and of teachers. My thanks to all of you who have taken it to heart and handed it on. It's a thrill to read the poems you send me, to have a window into that many young souls.” “I hope you won't stop there, though. Besides being a poem in its own right, “Where I'm From” can be a map for a lot of other writing journeys………..”