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October 3, 2004

From the NCSLMA conference...

I know it was a couple of weeks ago but life got kinda turned upside down when I got back, so I'm just getting around to getting my ass in gear here.

Though this was a professional conference for school librarians, there were some very creative and fun workshops to attend, some of which were given by one of my favorite authors, Deborah Wiles. Her specialty is Story (yes, with a capitol S)and how telling and retelling your story gives you a place in the world and validates your reason for being. You know that was right up my alley so I signed up and attended two back-to-back presentations by her. The first was more of an introduction to her methods of writing and readings from her work but the second was a hands-on workshop that we all had to contribute to. Little did I know that I would get a poem out of it.

What Deborah Wiles suggested is that we brainstorm, making lists first ... lists of things that are sensory, rich, whole parts of your past, what makes you 'you'. Some of the subjects could be:

Happy memories

Sad memories

Scary moments

Something that always makes you laugh

Something that always makes you cry

Food memories - favorite family dishes

People you loved/hated

Geography - physican places

History - a place in time




Other stuff - for that stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else!

These things should be both unique to you and universal, things that stand out to you as your strongest memories. You'll end up with many more things than you will actually use in this poem, so save the list for later poems ... I've started keeping a notebook for brainstorming. You'll be amazed at what you come up with when you let yourself go.

Using the same basic structure as the following poem, "Where I'm From..." by George Ella Lyons (below), choose images from your lists that are the richest to you and build your own "Where I'm From ... " poem.

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.


Here is my version ...

Where I'm From ...
by Sharon O'Neill

I am from the last house on the right,
a place where words were sparse,
brittle weeds pushing up
through cracks in the cement silence.
I am from aluminum Christmas trees,
from Spam and transistor radios.
I am from the smell of hyacinths,
a Clematis covered chimney and Linden trees
that showered us with chartreuse pollen.

I am from scalloped corn and shag haircuts,
from Anthony and Adeline
and the white cabin on Merrymeeting Lake.
I am from steps- and halfs-
and still being an only child,
from snap-out-of-it and
from pink striped ballerina wallpaper
hidden beneath Tiger Beat posters.

I am from taking the dirt road to MacArthur Park
to ice skating on the frozen reservoir,
from Hostess fruit pies and braided gimp.
From the night my mother took too many pills
to the morning my father was just gone.
I am from the tree branches that kept me hidden
when it was my turn to go to the dentist
to the roof I could watch the stars from
and ignore the storm brewing inside.

I am from floating on my back in the pool,
bobbing for hard, underripe pears
that tasted of chlorine and abandonment.
I am from the pregnant purple balloons
of the hostas nodding along the front walk,
crushed prematurely by ignorant fingers
that didn't understand that
a popped blossom would never know
the joy of opening into a beautiful bell.

This can be adapted to any age or grade level as a lesson and I'm willing to bet you can find no less than 20 full lesson plans online if you would like to have your class do a similar exercise.

It was a lesson in discovery for me ... revisiting many images I had forgotten, expecially some of the more plesant ones that get forgotten by the flood of the darker ones. We'll see where this notebook takes me. It's good enough to me that I'm writing again. *whew*

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on October 3, 2004 2:12 PM.

The grass is always greener... was the previous entry in this blog.

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