George Ella Lyon, an award-winning Kentucky poet, was inspired to fill a notebook with short, descriptive lines about where she grew up after reading "Stories I Ain't Told Nobody Yet" by celebrated Tennessee writer, Jo Carson. Eventually, her lists grew into poems, and she realized that “the question of where you are from reaches deep.”
Soon after, she began teaching other people to write their own poems called "Where I'm From," which grew into a worldwide phenomenon. In 2018 the Kentucky Arts Council ran a Where I'm From Project with a total of 731 poems from eighty-three counties throughout the state.
In late 2019, the Wheeling Arts & Cultural Commission in partnership with the Ohio County Public Library launched "Wheeling Reads: One Book, One Community," designed to bring our city closer together through the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book.
After opening a vote to the public, the Wheeling community chose the book "Educated," by Tara Westover (2018, Random House), for the inaugural 2020 Wheeling Reads book. "Educated" is an unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. In her heartbreaking and heartwarming story about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life, Westover nearly perfected captures a "memoir of place," transporting readers to the dichotomies of desolating, yet comforting mountains of rural Idaho and the security of having strong family ties while living in a dysfunctional and abusive household.
At an early Wheeling Reads discussion at Towngate Theater this past February, the idea of “memoir of place” was discussed as two local authors, Christina Fisanick & Laura Jackson Roberts, read their own versions of the “Where I’m From” poem.
As the City and the nation remains shuttered up in place during this time of self-isolation and social distancing, we could not think of a better exercise to reflect on "memoir of place" than to invite our community to participate in the "Where I'm From" project.
Wheeling Reads would like you to hear your own “Where I’m From” poems. We will video record and feature our favorites on the thirtieth of each month. The final winner(s) will be announced at the Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books this fall.
Wheeling writer Christina Fisanick gets us started with her own take on this fantastic series with a poem at the end of this news story. Tell us, readers, where are you from? Send us your own "Where I'm From" poems at [email protected].
Need help organizing your thoughts? Try our fill-in "Where I'm From" online form here.
Don't miss Lunch With Books Live, tomorrow, Tuesday, June 2, when Christina Fisanick and Laura Jackson Roberts share their own "Where I'm From" poems along with some much-needed lighthearted levity.
View their promo here:
Watch tomorrow live at one of the following virtual meeting places:
LWB Live on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDRiHtvIDYI
LWB Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lunchwithbooks/videos/387173925540682/
Want to keep up to date with all the upcoming Lunch With Books Livestream videos?
Subscribe to the Lunch With Books YouTube Channel or like the Lunch With Books Facebook page.
Listening to or reading George Ella Lyon's original poem is a great place to get started working on your own "Where I'm From" poem. There are also many examples to read at the iamfromproject.com website. For an example of a poem written locally, we've provided Christina Fisanick's take below.
As you prepare to write, remember that we all come from experiences, not just locations. We are from our family and its history, from the food we eat, the songs we sing, the houses we live in.
There’s no right way to do this, no one poem to be written. If you're feeling adventurous, just choose what sounds like a beginning and what has an ending feel to it. If you'd like help getting started, try using our online "Where I'm From" online form here.
Send us your finished "Where I'm From" poems at [email protected]. Multiple entries encouraged.
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