My “Where I’m From” Poem

Summer, for me, consists of a lot of consuming: consuming books, consuming coffee, consuming blog posts that other people write (guilty). I always forget how easy it is to consume and then basically have nothing. Why not do some creating?

Some creating, this summer, has been: lesson plans, blog posts, and poetry. Now, it’s very difficult for me to share poetry with people, much less the whole internet.

Every year I teach the “Where I’m From” poem, championed first by George Ella Lyon—the form being copied in classrooms, anthologies, and blogs everywhere. I even wrote one in high school, then college, now as a teacher. Every year I teach this form, and every year I write a new one.

Here’s this year’s:

 

“I’m From”

 I’m from fried wild mushrooms picked with dad,

earth and fat in one bite.

 

From gym class in 6th grade when the planes hit the towers—

the sadness of a hundred thousand strangers.

 

From garden tomatoes

and ice cream Spongebobs from music-box trucks.

 

I’m from vising my grandparents faithfully, because they are the strongest.

 

Saturday morning house-cleaning, picking vacuuming so I could sing loud.

 

From the last 20 tear-stained Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pages signaling the end

of childhood.

 

From learning how to walk away from the bad

And how to trust God

And feel capable of it all. 

 

This will keep changing, I’m sure, because that’s what happens when you write anything. It’s pretty difficult to share you deep dark thoughts (in poem form at that) with snarky teenagers. But I keep doing it.

I think I like the I’m From poem because anyone can write it—we are all from something, whether we like it or not. With the kids I teach, some of them don’t like where they’re from. They hate where they’re from. So I don’t ask them to think about their childhoods, but ask them what are some things in front of them right now that impact them. Like cell phones. Whether we like it or not, we’re all from cell phones. Cell phones have shaped our human culture. This could definitely make it into a line somewhere.

It’s also cool to have them counter it with a “Where I’m Going” poem. A great way to end a unit.

Teachers, have you taught the ubiquitous “Where I’m From” poem? What are you favorite strategies/ideas?

-S

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