The I Am From
poem is a form developed by George Ella Lyon. It has been successfully used in schools across the country. Some of the results are wonderful, with students reaching into their everyday lives and ethnic backgrounds and coming up with single images that are worth a thousand words. It occurred to me that this would be a good exercise in the class I teach on Writing Your Memoirs. This week we thought back to our early school years and concentrated on remembering one incident that might bring to mind many images. Then we wrote I Am From
poems with those memories as starting points.
I thought of sitting on the front porch swing at the house on Main Street, where I grew up. It was inevitable that I would have a book in my hand. Back and forth went the swing as I lost track of time and place and let myself be carried away into . . .
The World of Books
I am from the House at Pooh Corner,
from the Hundred Acre Wood,
from Kanga, Piglet, Eeyore, and Roo,
from Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh.
I am from Tinker Town Tom and his sister Belle
who fought the evil white-faced clown
and saved the polliwogs
and the cradle babies.
I am from Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton
and Beverly Gray, but not from Pollyanna.
I am from high Alpine meadows
where I lived with the Grandfather,
and climbed with Peter, and drank goats’ milk
and ate cheese, warmed and spread
on white bread fresh from a stone oven.
I am from deepest Africa and Tarzan of the Apes,
from Tuck Everlasting and the life-giving spring,
from The Secret Garden and a boy crying in the night;
And I am from Raggedy Ann
and the deep, deep woods
filled with fairies and everything.
I am from Huck Finn and the mighty Mississippi,
from Menabilly and Frenchman’s Creek.
I am from 1001 Nights of tales retold.
I am called Scheherazade, Rapunzel,
Heidi, Jane Eyre, Marcella.
I have heard the creaking of the sign
that hangs at Jamaica Inn,
offering travelers shelter for the night.
I have followed the paths
of Creatures Great and Small
across the heather-strewn moors of Yorkshire.
I am from the brothers Grimm,
and ogres, and giants,
and godmothers with wands.
I am heroine, adventurer, solver of mysteries;
I swing from trees, open the garden gate,
and understand the meaning
of a candy heart.
I am from ideas and memories
formed in ink
and spread across paper,
to be read under the bedsheets
with a flashlight.
I am from the world of books.
Can you imagine a character in one of your books writing an I Am From poem? What would you learn by letting this person tell you how he or she feels? By standing to one side and listening while your character digs deep and comes up with what might be surprising information? I think I’ll try it. I’ll let you know what happens.