04 April 2006

Where I'm From

Following is an email I got at work yesterday and my results:

Hi all,

In honor of April, which is Poetry Month, this week's poem will be slightly different. This week I offer you a simple activity--a series of questions you answer that will result in your own poem. Now, before you think...uh oh...and delete this message, read on. I want to encourage you to use this activity with other staff, instructors and students. For example, Brattleboro staff is encouraging a diverse group of instructors to try the activity in their classes. And Burlington is posting the questions in the hallways on large sheets, so they can create a collaborative site-wide poem.

The activity is simple and the results are stunning. The activity is part of our SEI Instructor resources and our Top 40 Anthology of Assignments, but it has been done nation-wide with everyone from schoolchildren to senior citizens. It celebrates diversity--what makes each of us unique--while it builds a sense of community. It is quick, easy, and error-proof (You can't do it wrong!). And it is pure magic to see or hear these poems read aloud. Trust me.

Okay, so here's the activity, which is based on a poem by Georgia Ella Lyons, called "Where I'm From.” Simply answer the questions below with a statement that begins "I'm from..."

Where I'm From
What are 3-5 objects/elements found in your yard or some outdoor place you love to go?
I am from?
What are 3-5 things you would rush from your home in the case of a fire?
I am from?
What are the names of relatives, friends, teachers or others who link you to your past?
I am from?
What are the names of animals you've loved or love?
I am from?
What are a few sayings you remember from childhood?
I am from?
What are names of foods and dishes that recall family gatherings or childhood?
I am from?
What are books or songs or television/films you loved growing up?
I am from?
What are smells you associate with your family and extended family?
I am from?
What are a few things you learned to do or achieved on your own that you're proud of accomplishing?
I am from?
What are names of places you remember from childhood?
I am from?
What are childhood dreams you held? What did you want to be when you grew up?
I am from?
What are 3 items that represent your beliefs?
I am from?
What are 3 values you hold dear?
I am from?
What else communicates where you are from?
I am from?

Okay, here is the original poem by Georgia Ella Lyons.

Where I'm From
by George Ella Lyons

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the black 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.

And now my contribution:

I am from sun puddles on the canyon red rocks, mesas, goat heads.

I am from my daughter, my photos, my hard drive.

I am from Autumn, Nanny and her soft, soft skin, Shirley, Harry, Mere Claire and Peter.

I am from Ivy, Luca Pumpkin Head, Sam I & II, Watson.

I am from “the moon and back and over the rainbow and back again,” from “stop crying before I give you something to cry about,” from “we’re moving…again.”

I am from mudbugs, gumbo, hushpuppies, Shirley’s sweet tea, jambalaya and fragrant pink shrimp.

I am from Just Me, Rainbow Connection, Good Night Moon, The Rainbow Goblins, Queen, Carole King and Joni Mitchell.

I am from cayenne, lightening, the dank musk of the swamp, incense and patchouli.

I am from surviving, mothering, math, yarn.

I am from Slidell, Salt Lake, Moab, Picayune, Mesa, Long Beach, Champlain, Burlington and points in between.

I am from flying, falling and teaching.

I am from Venus, Jupiter, blood.

I am from patience, honesty and love.

I am from Luna and circle, womyn and power.