by Pamela Duncan
On the first day of classes this semester, I asked my students to read George Ella Lyon’s wonderful poem Where I’m From (http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html) and then write their own version. It’s a great ice breaker and a way to start getting to know the students. Their responses were so creative and interesting, I felt inspired to try the exercise myself.
Where I’m From
I am from woodstoves and kitchen tables,
from, “Here, honey, set down and eat a bite,”
from cornbread and gravy, biscuits and Karo,
from Neil Price Avenue in Black Mountain, NC, a rock road named for my Pawpaw.
I am from a red tarpaper house in a mill village,
from furniture that lasts longer than the people who made it.
I am from hedges and the women telling stories on either side of them.
I am from gardens making food three seasons out of four,
from under the house, climbing on the coal pile or the wood pile,
from chickens chasing and bee stings cured with tobacco and laying on a blanket under the trees to keep cool and the slam of a screen door.
I am from a white brick suburban ranch with a pool,
from football in the front yard, throwing dirt clods at cars, laying in the middle of the road on warm summer nights.
I am from the Brady Bunch, the Waltons, Happy Days,
from top 40 radio and cruising the strip in a 1972 Chevy Impala, black.
I am from Bulldogs and Tigers and Chargers,
from red brick schoolhouses filled with millworkers’ kids just like me.
I am from J&C and Dover Mills, from the dye house, the winding room, quality control.
I am from cigarettes and Lord Calvert, CoCola and SunDrop,
from lawnmowers, microwaves, a TV in every room.
I am from Mama and Daddy, Nanny and Pawpaw,
brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins.
I am from growing up surrounded by kin – people and mountains.
I am from leaving and going back
over and over and over again,
still looking for home.
(Novelist Pamela Duncan is the author of Moon Women, a Southeast Booksellers Association Award Finalist, and Plant Life, which won the 2003 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. She is the recipient of the 2007 James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South, awarded by the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Her third novel, The Big Beautiful, was published in March 2007. She teaches creative writing at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Visit her website at http://www.pameladuncan.com/.)