Where We're From

We're studying place in my composition classes right now, and we're especially interested in how "who we are and what we have to say is in so many ways interwoven, directly and indirectly, consciously and unconsciously, with our local environs" (Derek Owens, Sustainable Comp).

One of the activities I do sometimes with students is write "Where I'm From" poems. These are quite popular among teachers because students enjoy them and they are always good. Here is the poem that started the current trend, though others have written poems of a similar nature through out history.

I think you get a good sense of where the poem is from by listening to George Ella Lyons read it herself, which you can do here.

Where I'm From

by George Ella Lyons

I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the black 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.


  1. Thematically on where one is from, I always liked the poem an author known only as "The Girl Who Sighs" wrote published in the 2005 Calaveras Journal titled "A Short History."

  2. that's very sweet of you David.


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