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‘Where I’m From’ is an autobiographical poem written by George Ella Lyon. Bringing out snippets of the poet’s own childhood, this poem captures the journey of her life.
About the Poet:
George Ella Lyon (1949-) is an eminent American novelist and poet. In addition, she’s also published various other articles and picture books. Famous works of hers include ‘All The Water In The World’, ‘Trucks Roll!’, and ‘Boats Float!’.
I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. I am from the dirt under the back 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.
The poem begins with the poet stating that she is from ‘clothespins’ and ‘Clorox and carbon tetrachloride, referring to her drying her clothes in the cloth line. This imagery of cleanliness is immediately contrasted with ‘dirt under the back porch’, suggesting that she must have been a mischievous child, tasting mud.
Finally, she paints an image of the ‘Dutch elm’ in the vicinity of her house which was as familiar as her own limbs to her. This stanza thus brings out the beautiful childhood of the poet.
I am 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 cottonball lamb and ten verses I can say myself.
Here, the poet goes on to state her penchant for fudges and eyeglasses. Then, she mentions ‘Imogene’ and ‘Alafair’, quite possibly her childhood friends. She then states how she was from a place filled with ‘know-it-alls’ and ‘pass-it-ons’ and ‘perk up and pipe down’, all referring to the Southern United States the poet hails from.
The stanza ends on a religious note with a reference to God. “He restoreth my soul” is, in fact, from Psalm 23 of the Old Testament. Here is a child’s perspective of Jesus and the lamp which she describes to be a ‘cottonball’.
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.
In the final stanza, the poet states that she was from ‘Artemus and Billie’s Branch’, referring to 2 rivers. She states that she belongs to a land filled with ‘fried corn and strong coffee’. A disturbing image of her grandfather’s finger cut off by an auger and her father’s one eye shut can also be seen here. This alludes to childhood curiosity that masked even the morbid nature of things.
Then she talks about how she discovered old pictures and how the faces there kept her company as she dreamt during the night. She states that she herself is from these moments captured in the pictures, how she is but a leaf from the tree that was her family.
This is a beautiful poem that invokes the essence of childhood. Every line captures the beautiful memories that the poet had experienced as a child.