The “I Am From . . .” poetic form was 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 looked 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 Main Street, where I grew up, and inevitably I stretched those early memories to include a less juvenile time of my life. This is the result:
I am from Main Street,
from games at twilight
and Mrs. Loring’s chow dog
with the purple tongue.
I am from back fences and hollyhocks,
from orange trees that blossomed
in the spring,
and sent their fragrance
to float on the cool night air.
I am from a front porch swing
and the sounds of
the Lone Ranger and Captain Midnight,
and the taste of cold watermelon
with black seeds that were
good for spitting.
I am from sack lunches,
and the five and dime,
and banana splits
with three kinds of ice cream
and whipped cream and a cherry on top.
I am from time passing
and starry nights
and the moon shining so bright
over Main Street
that it put sparkles in my hair
. . . or so he said.
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.
Contributed by Marilyn Donahue