Friday, November 9, 2012

I Am From: an exercise in poetry

Last night I held a public reading for my two creative writing classes for kids through "Take My Word For It!" Twelve students--3rd and 4th graders--read their wonderful work aloud to a fun and supportive audience of parents and small siblings at our local independent bookstore, Copperfield's Books.

These students each read a couple of pieces they had written during an 8- or 9-week class. They shared stories imagined from free-writing prompts, old photographs, odd objects and sounds, as well as tales created by embellishing simple sentences, and stories made from news headlines such as "Spicing Up a Brown Bag Lunch."

One of the students' favorite exercises and most commonly read were "I Am From" poems, using sensory memories to create a self-portrait with words. Here's a compilation of a few excerpts, followed by my own poem.

I Am From

     "...the sounds of whistling wind and a bird's tweet
     the smell of cinnamon rolls and perfume so sweet..."

    "the feel of my ripped-up hands from gymnastics.. 
     ... from hot pink socks and bright blue leotards..."

    "the sound of sirens going by..."

    "the touch of a wool blanket and leather chair in the office"

     "the memory of my first baseball glove and the crack of a wood baseball bat"

     "grilled sliders on 4th of July and eating crab on Christmas Eve"

    "the tickle on my back when people play with my hair"

    "wind that sounds like water falling; leaves rattling like a rattle snake.."

I Am From

the sad sound of mourning doves and cicadas buzzing in summer heat
the scent of bacon sizzling on Saturday morning 
pulpy papaya dripping from my chin.

I am from my mother's blessings over Hanukkah candles, 
and her Ma Griffe perfume on evenings out.

I am from hot magenta and magic mint Crayolas,
and Shrinky Dinks growing bright in the oven.
I am from saltwater sandals reaching skyward on a swing,
from swimming pool lights late at night,

from building tree forts with my older brother,
reading paperbacks on the bed with a best friend,
listening to pages turn from the leather armchair at the library,
writing my name in the Big Tree's branches.

I am from coconut flakes like snow on a German chocolate cake
baked for my birthday,
frozen M-n-M cookies kept in Nana's kitchen,
just ten pieces of Halloween candy so I won't ruin my teeth.

I am from my father's love of Scrabble and Mastermind,
calling 'I'm ready' before being tucked into bed,
from lightning storms on my grandparents' back porch in Cleveland.

Try it! Make a list of phrases invoking sounds, smells, touch, taste, memories, colors, foods, habits, traditions, places. Then arrange them in whatever order you'd like, starting with "I am From." 


Arletta Dawdy said...

Lovely post, Nicole, especially the children's fresh words.
I am From:
Smells of cabbage in Grandma's boarding house; Scavaging treasures on Raritan Bay; Burnt Christmas trees on St. Peterburg's lamplights; The Jeep to nowhere parked in the huge garage...etc.

Nicole R. Zimmerman said...

Arletta, thanks for posting yours! ;)

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