It is so interesting to see where we all come from — to understand a person’s perspective on their own experience. I believe we get a small glimpse of what is important to someone when we ask the simple question: Where are you from?
I love to hear how people describe where exactly it is that they come from – it says a lot about a person: Sometimes it’s a general answer: California, or Orange County, or San Clemente. Sometimes though it’s a little deeper than that. I always try to see what’s on their face. Do they smile when they talk about “home”? Do they light up when the speak about their space or where they grew up? Does their face change when they mention their family? Smiling? Furrowed brows? Do they laugh when they mention an old relationship come and gone? All of these things can speak volumes if you are both listening and watching in tandem. Sometimes, if you only hear the words then you will not get to experience the entirety of the answer.
That’s why I think reading someone’s writing is such a unique experience. You cannot hear inflection or see body language when reading. It is up to the reader to determine how the piece is interpreted. Poetry specifically has implicit meaning – a secret or hidden message within the writing itself. I enjoy having my students write their thoughts out on paper, and because I know them, I am able to hear their voices as I read – it makes reading their pieces a lot of fun. I had my students work on an I Am From Poem Project, although at first, they did not know what they were getting themselves into.
I first had them list out a few things using this template —>
Their family members, Things they love inside their home, their favorite foods to eat, their favorite places to go, phrases that people often tell them, favorite childhood memories.
Keep in Mind: If you’ve never used Google Docs before, go to the top right hand corner, and download the pdf (it’s a little arrow pointing down). Print it out and get started! You can also do this exercise in a journal if you do not have a printer handy.
I remind my students to be specific and try to write your short phrases using the five senses – smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight. Afterwards students will pick the phrases that resonate most with them and write “I am from” in front of each phrase. This ends up being pretty therapeutic too. Try it and send me your poems! I would love to see what you come up with.
After they finish answering, students can start to put some of the pieces together and choose what truly makes up who they are as individuals and how they view their childhood and life up to this point. This is the fun part because I get to see what is important to them. Reading the poems my students’ write is always super personal, they really think about their life and how they feel. I wrote one too, just to make it even and I want to share it with you! You will learn a lot about what I love, value, and remember most from my life. Writing is a therapeutic process and I highly recommend it for anyone and everyone – just do it. Even if it’s bad at first.
This is my “I Am From” poem:
I am from warm white cabinets and pale green walls
I am from white fuzzy blankets, soft rugs, and big pillows
I am from yellow light bulbs strung up, guitars with lyrics in my head, and piano music echoing throughout my childhood
I am from vanilla, toasted marshmallow, and sugarcane candles, lighting up shadows on my wall
I am from broken pieces and divorce
But I am also from cousin council meetings, full tables and too much food
I am from steamed rice, fresh fish, and soy sauce
I am from long days and warm nights
I am from pumpkin waffles, sticky syrup, and fresh strawberries
I am from rest, you need it
I am from saying yes, too many times without regret
I am from girls night in and hot tea steaming in my cold hands
I am from work out everyday, and do you need to eat that
But I am also from you are enough
I am from ate and cuia
I am from I love you, even when it goes unsaid
I am from journals started but never finished
I am from bookshelves, jewelry boxes, handwritten notes and colored gel pens
I am from the 90s
I am from ramen noodles and warm soup
I am from my writing desk
I am from bookstores lined with titles I’ve never read and blue carpets
I am from you are writing in the dark, every night
I am from faith and failure, redemption and grace
I am from dreaming and creating
I am from you should go to sleep
I am from meet me here, and going
I am from polaroids and talking all night long
Some Reminders to Help You Get Started: