Know Thyself

In her book, Writing to Change the World, Mary Pipher has a chapter entitled, Know Thyself. In it she talks about how important it is for writers to know who they are and where they come from. She offers a short poem there called, “I Am From,” and suggests that her readers do the same. In an attempt to better understand where I come from and, hopefully, become a better writer, I have accepted that assignment. This was more difficult than I imagined it would be. There are a lot of things that make me who I am and choosing only a few of them was not easy. I guess that’s part of the point, though. Sometimes we view ourselves in a one-dimensional way and we forget that there is much more that makes us who we are than what we can see in a mirror. So, whether you’re an aspiring writer or not, I would challenge you to think about where you’re from, too.

I am from…

I am from Tom and Suzi.
From Barbara, Gene, Virgil, and Lilian.
I am from divorce and remarriage.
From half-siblings and stepparents.
I am from Mammy and Sister’s house on High Street.
And from our little apartment overlooking Pioneer Drive.
I am from the city and the country.
From boulevards and backroads.
I am from Sister’s camelias and roses.
From Mammy’s bluebonnets and marigolds.
I am from huge oak trees in a big yard.
And from a few potted plants on an upstairs balcony.
I am from Methodists and Baptists.
From Church of Christ and no church at all.
I am from Reagan Revolutionaries.
From New Deal Democrats.
I am from preachers and Sunday School teachers.
And from a gospel piano player who taught me to play, too.
I am from Country and Western.
From Southern Gospel and High Church Hymns.
I am from Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahams.
From Herb Alpert and Henry Mancini.
I am from radios, eight tracks, and cassettes.
From CD’s and MP3’s.
I am from green beans and new potatoes.
From Mammy’s salmon patties and hot water cornbread.
I am from Sister’s 1234 Cake.
From Aunt Daisy’s Chocolate pie.
I am from Mom’s chicken enchiladas and stuffed manicotti.
And from peanut butter and jelly on good old white bread.
I am from sultry summer nights chasing fireflies in the yard.
From the sound of crickets, locusts, hoot owls, and raging spring storms.
I am from Friday Night Football and Saturday morning cartoons.
From Sunday afternoon wrestling and, “be quiet my story is on.”
I am from unconditional love and unbearable loss.
From memories of words I should’ve said and deeds left undone.
I am German, English, Scotch, Irish, and American Indian.
I am an artist, a writer, a thinker, and a lover of words.
I am a worrier. I am a dreamer. I am a helper.
I am my father’s absence and my mother’s endurance.
I am my sister’s energy and zest for life.
I am my nieces’ beautiful spirits.
I am my faults, my failures, my fears.
I am my desire to overcome them all.
I am not lost. I am here.
I am known from the foundations of the earth. I am loved.
I am all of these things and all of the other things.
I am more than the sum of them.
I am me.


One thought on “Know Thyself

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  1. Reblogged this on MEtopia and commented:

    I’m going to have my students do their version of this poem during the first two weeks of school. I can’t wait to read what they come up with!


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