Thoughts on “I’m From” Poems


I read a lot of poetry, some online. Lately
I’ve noticed several “I’m From” poems.
It is interesting how alike they are, as if
from a group exercise in a workshop.
They are similar in layout and content,
fashioned to fit a common formula,
a “fill in the blank” project.

With minimal research I discovered there
is indeed a standard template for this genre
within a genre, a poet’s version of “paint by
the numbers.” Thus the alikeness of “I’m From”
litanies.

When I happen across these archetypical poems
I feel I’ve read them before — nostalgic expositions
woven from memory lane snippets:

I’m from the catnip plant in the garden
from hot tortillas and refried beans
the dirt under the back porch — tiddlywinks,

black licorice, and bazooka bubblegum
from not able to sleep on Christmas Eve
I am from splinters, cuts, and scraped knees
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride
the finger my grandfather lost to the auger
I am from the dark oak of my grandmother’s coffin

I have some childhood recollections that
might fit the “I’m From” model — I’m from
rummage sale clothing — stuffing cardboard
in shoes to patch holes — I’m from potatoes,
crackers, and milk for supper — from chucking
coal into a natural draft furnace — sharing a
used, fenderless bike with my younger brother
I’m from ringworm, head lice, and impetigo
raking leaves and shoveling snow, mowing lawns,
and detassling corn — I’m from a childhood friend
whose left leg was shriveled from polio . . . .

Conclusion — I will pass on composing an
“I’m From” poem, cede the category to the poems
already out there and those yet to be written.

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