Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Where I'm From

I need to remember this for the beginning of the year.

We began by brainstorming lists of what someone would see upon entering the door to our house, what a stranger would see lying on the floor, piled in the corner. For today’s writing exercise, we answered a series of questions, and each response became a different line in our poems. By combining elements from each list and beginning them with the statement, “I am from…,” we began to write about who we are and also about what we bring with us into our writing.

We based our writing on George Ella Lyon's poem "Where I'm From."

image from Paines Plough
"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 He 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 faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.



Now, you give it a try:


I am from (specific ordinary item)________________________________________________
from (product name)________________and (another product name)_______________
I am from the (home description)_________________________________________________
Adjective that describes the above home description_____________, ______________
It (tasted, sounded, looked , felt –choose one)__________________________________
I am from the (plant, flower, or natural item)_______________________________________,
the (plant, flower, or natural item)____________________________________________
(Description of natural item)__________________________________________________
I’m from the (family tradition)___________________and (family trait)__________________
from (name of family member)___________and (name of family member)___________
and (another name)______________________
I’m from the (description of family tendency)_______________________________________
and (Another family tendency)________________________________________________
From (something you were told as a child)__________________________________________
and (another thing you were told as a child)_____________________________________
I’m from (representation of religious or spiritual beliefs or lack of it)___________________,
(further description of spiritual beliefs)________________________________________
I’m from (place of birth and family ancestry)_______________________________________,
(Two food items that represent your ancestry)________________and ______________.
I am from (general statement with DETAILS about who you are or where you are from)______________



Students are encouraged to deviate from this form, to make it their own.  Here's my take on our "Where I'm From" poem:

I am from 16 count crayola boxes,
     more than 8
     but longing for 64.
I am from mint green double-wide,
     Formica counters, linoleum floors, wood-burning stove
     filling our home with campfire smoke each October through April.

I am from sweet-peas and dandelions,
     spilling onto the lawn from neighboring woods,
     boundaries between the wild areas unclear.
I am from the cherry pickers,
     telling stories while spitting pits,
     from guttural consonants,
     and European vagabonds
     with a hint of Ojibwa on
     the tip of my nose.

I am from "I shall not want,"
     from green pastures and still waters
     lead by grandmother's hand
     to church, but also to value
     fiercely its separate place.
I am from Tigers and Vernors.

We sit at the flaking red picnic table,
     crammed together on the bench,
     swapping stories, swatting flies.
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