Where I'm From Poems

Recently I found out about a beautiful poem and a newly organized project built around it. The poem is called ‘Where I’m From’ and it’s by George Ella Lyon. The poem is short and succinct. It showcases the sense of someone’s identity from ordinary objects, hidden facts, spaces and people; and all so simply. You can read the poem and about the project HERE.

I am taking an online course called ‘Defecting from Supremacy’ from the good people over at White Awake and during our first week the hosts had us all do our own ‘Where I’m From’ poem. I was a little shy about it at first as I’ve spent most of my life intentionally not writing about myself, but as I sat there in the park - with Margaret reading next to me under a tree, the words just started to flow. The result painted a picture of how I identified, and cemented in my mind just who I was. I go through my life hardly ever thinking about myself or who I am in the world, and so having this sudden personal sense - coming poetry is kinda grounding and really nice. It was also a little surprising, the things I thought of when writing and what they mean to my perception of myself.

This is a great activity not only for personal exploration, but to see what others have written. The newly formed project has some pretty great goals:

Our deepest hope is to open a way for We the People to express who this country really is, what our values are, and how they unite rather than divide us. America’s embrace is wide enough to include all of us if we put our minds and money to our common welfare.

George Ella LyonWhere I'm From Project

I encourage you to try your own ‘Where I’m From’ poem and share it with your friends and family. Below is my poem, unedited as I wrote it. (I thought about changing some things but decided against it to keep it as original as possible from my initial intention.)

I am from the forest’s edge
or more specifically,
the sandbox at the forest’s edge.
The crawlspace under the house
pink fluffy insulation
and itchy hands and knees.
I am from midnight carpet
downstairs Hotwheels
awake and alone in the silence.

I am from another packed box,
or box unpacked… some never unpacked.
The coastal bog and the desert sand
ancestors could not imagine a place.
I am from trails and freedom
the icy mountain stream
and cans of cabin beans.
Father-son drives,
enchiladas and Huey Lewis
getting to select a tape from the dollar bin.

I am from frustration at math
from the black twinkling recess,
the not recalling – the not wanting.
I am a bending branch to who
knows where.

-Drew Nelson (2020)

Below is a really great video accompanying George Ella Lyon’s original poem.