Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Where I'm from: An exercise in poetry

There's a poem by George Ella Lyon called Where I'm From that provides a great writing exercise as well as a way to get to know people better. Do read her original version here, with the origin of the form.

Someone has written out a handy template here, and I used it once years ago to write my own version; now, I think the time has come for a new one. It would be fascinating, in fact, to do one every year or so, and if I have a child someday, wouldn't it be grand to do one for every year of life until they can take on their own writing? This particular template focuses a lot on the past, so perhaps there is something similar that could be used for a more current snapshot.

Here, then, is my 2015 edition. Will you join me with one of your own? I'm sure all the international locations represented by this blog and its readers can provide a surprising variety of results!

I am from island ferries, from mosquito coils and pavlova.

I am from the A-frame on the hill, red brick below, faux half-timbered above, baking in the summer heat.

I am from the feijoa blossom promising fruit, the tiny yellow zucchini so recently appeared in the garden. 

I am from Boxing Day parties and hospitality, from Ernest and Amelia and Albert and a vast array of barely-known cousins. 

I am from cyclical hoarding and clear-outs, from bargaining and dreaming.

From an early encounter with polite French gendarmes, and how they returned me to my parents after I wandered off in a supermarket. 

I am from moments of inspiration that are as close to heaven as I'll get in this world. Words spiral down onto my page, alive, and enliven me. 

I'm from saltwater and immigrants who travelled the seas to come here, hearty stews and fresh strawberries. 

From the German princess who married an Irishman and ran off to New Zealand, the seamstress who owned a fabric shop just down the road.

I am from a multitude of bookshelves and boxes, postcards pegged on a line. Oval-framed sepia pictures, lists of names and dates, an unmistakable resemblance from generation to generation. I am also from within my own self, sources that are mine alone and the way I see the world. 


  1. What an interesting idea. It takes too much thought for a quick comment but I see possibilities for getting the writing juices going. I once took a workshop that included free writing beginning with the phrase, "I remember . . ." Thanks for your post.

  2. Singing,,,"Getting to know you," Grace. great idea.

  3. That link you gave about the origin of the poem is very interesting, Grace--I'll have to remember to try using it in a writing workshop sometime. As time permits, I'll try doing my own too. Thanks for sharing it.