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Where I’m From – A Crowdsourced Poem

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Family photo of a picnic at my Grandmother’s house. She is in the plaid shirt looking toward the camera. 1965

I wrote an earlier blog about a workshop I attended centered around the poem “Where I’m From” written by George Ella Lyon. You can read that post by following this link.

I finally have my first version of that poem complete and as promised, I am sharing it here. It definitely gives you a taste of the way I grew up. After writing, I realized I could write this poem ten times over because it is impossible to include all the aspects of who I am in one short poem. But this does give you a window into what makes me who I am.

Maggie – Where I’m From

I am from worn-out Bibles and divinity fudge
From mimosa trees and bumblebees
I am from stringin’ beans and shuckin’ corn
and huddling around the Siegler stove.
I am from black walnuts
whose shells hid tiny faces with big eyes.

I am from valley creek and the baptizing hole
From Bertha Rose and Walter.
I am from minding your manners
and counting your blessings.
from hard workers and tall tale-tellers.
I’m from Peace in the Valley and Steal Away to Jesus

I am from Big Jim and Freida Mae
angel biscuits and chinquapins
from walking home after Sunday preachin’.
Faded faces of my family kept
tucked away in a Whitman’s Sampler box
still smelling of old chocolate.
From heart attacks and mistletoe and
stereo images of well-appointed ladies.

I am from those moments slowly slipping away
but forever in my DNA.

Blog

JusJoJan – Our Values and Our Roots

I am taking an online course led by Patti Digh, author of “Life is a Verb”. The course, “First 37” covers the first 37 days of the year by exploring our goals and intentions for the year. The number 37 figures in much of Patti’s work. In 2003 her stepfather was diagnosed with lung cancer and he died 37 days later. It caused her to ask what she would do if she knew she only had 37 days to live.

A common thread seems to be thinking about our values. We are provided with a list of 230 personal values. Just thinking there are 230 different values to which we attach meaning for our lives makes me realize just how different we all are. How we find our own way in this world is one thing, but how we ever find common ground with others is another.

I have never dedicated time to sit down with the intention of writing out my personal values. Have you? I will go through the list today and see what resonates with me. I am also sure through life experience that my values have changed. As a young girl, there were so many things in this world I was not even aware existed. Now those same things I feel deeply about. This class has been a valuable journey.

I also attended an hour-long workshop last week inspired by the poem “Where I’m From” written by Harlan, Kentucky native George Ella Lyon. The workshop was about writing a similar poem based on our own lives. There are a number of templates and ideas used by teachers and they are easy to find online. I will post my poem here when I have completed it. I have also asked my brother to do the same.

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.
(Black, glistening,
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

Source: George Ella Lyon Writer & Teacher. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2020, from http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html

Last year, NPR did a callout for submissions of poetry using “Where I’m From” as inspiration. Ms. Lyon responded:

“I was amazed and delighted to hear you read part of ‘Where I’m From’ on Morning Edition Monday. My poem, written in 1993, was inspired by a poem of Jo Carson’s. Her poem took off from something she heard somebody say,” she said. “So ‘Where I’m From’ has been a pass-it-on-phenomenon from the get-go. Here’s to the power of poetry and place, and to the voices in all of us that long to be heard.”

Source: Noenickx, C. (2019, August 28). ‘Where I’m From’: A Crowdsourced Poem That Collects Your Memories Of Home. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2019/08/28/754698275/where-i-m-from-a-crowdsourced-poem-that-collects-your-memories-of-home

Both of these writing projects have been very revealing for me. A little self exploration is good for the soul.


This post is part of Linda Hill’s Just Jot It January. Today the inspiration word was provided by Dan – visit his blog ”No Facilities”.

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