I'll get into all the details of this wonderful experience next week when I host, but for today I just want to point you in a very hopeful direction....
As always in these poetry teaching workshops, George Ella Lyon's celebrated poem "Where I'm From" is offered up as a way to help young writers see that the details of their own true lived experience can be the stuff of poetry. Here's the poem, if you somehow haven't run across it before.
Where I'm From | George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
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.
While we worked with the poem and our own memories (my piece is called "How I Left Red Behind"), I popped over to George Ella's website and found this note from her:
Dear Friends of Poetry & Democracy,
I’m writing to tell you about a project that Julie Landsman & I are developing in response to the rhetoric of xenophobia and isolationism that is becoming rampant in our country. In such an atmosphere, how can we find our voices and make them heard? One avenue is through poetry, that heart-cry that comes to us in times of love and crisis.
Because my poem, “Where I’m From” has been used so widely as a writing model (most recently across Kentucky during my tenure as Poet Laureate)*, Julie–an educator, writer, and activist in Minneapolis–reached out to me with the idea of creating a national “I Am From” Project. Through Facebook, a website, and a great network of teachers, librarians, writers, and community leaders, as well as other organizations, we hope to encourage and gather “I Am From” creations from all over the country and take them, in some form, to Washington in October of 2018. The action in D.C. will be a culmination of local readings and workshops, statewide presentations, radio and TV appearances, and more.
We’re encouraging creation in many directions; poems, yes, but also dance, art, song, drama—expressions which can be videoed and shared with and beyond their local audience. In terms of poetry, one of Julie’s visions is a scroll made of “I Am From” poems wrapped around a school, a library, a state capitol. Another possibility is to put our poems on posters and have a river of poetry on the National Mall.
Our deepest hope is to open a way for We the People to express who this country really is, what our values are, and how they unite rather than divide us. America’s embrace is wide enough to include all of us if we put our minds and money to our common welfare.
We would love to have you involved in some way. Please send comments and suggestions to Julie at:
or me at:
Here’s to equality and hope. Here’s to all our voices!
George Ella Lyon
I just wanted to make sure that all my friends in this Poetry Friday community were aware of this inspiring project, which I hope to give some on-the-ground support in the DC area. Sylvia is rounding us up today at Poetry for Children where I think we'll all learn even more about the book that's popping up everywhere, Great Morning!