Where I'm From Poems
"Each of us has a unique and powerful story to tell."
Watch the poems on Instagram HERE
Watch the poems on YouTube HERE
Read the story behind the poems, right here--->
Once upon a time, when memoirist and author of The Part That Burns, Jeannine Ouellette shared about the PAHS (Project for Advancing Healthcare Stewardship) Forums on her Facebook last year, I thought why not?
I’ve felt grateful for the health care I’ve received and as I’ve aged I’ve realized more and more how linked my care was to my privilege. When I was diagnosed with Melanoma at the age of 11 my dermatologist refused to believe it and promptly sent my sample to four more labs.
He was right. And I want to believe he would have provided the same care to someone who didn’t present like me, a white, wealthy gymnast whose father just happened to be a medical malpractice defense attorney—but let’s be honest, every single part of my formula contributed to receiving superlative care.
So when Jeannine shared about the PAHS forums, I felt drawn to them, almost as if they held something that was just for me.
And they did. Jeannine read the poem, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon and shared the prompts that enabled each of us to write our own personal takes on the poem. We split into breakout rooms with the prompts and a partner to talk through the prompts and ostensibly work on our poem, but somehow I ended up getting very little of my own poem finished. I listened to my breakout room partner, who I know just a little from a Facebook group we’re both in. I loved listening to her run through the prompts and ultimately share a poem based on the prompt.
I didn’t finish my own writing that day. Not even close. And younger me would have been disappointed in this older me, not caring so much about achieving. But hey, older me is much more comfortable with perceived imperfections.
I listened to others share their brilliant poems. Honestly, they felt uniformly brilliant. And yes, they did overlap with the notion of health stewardship. More than anything, they spoke to that part of me that believes that each of us has a unique and powerful story to tell. It’s been proven true time and again. If I take the time to listen and the other takes the time and trusts me enough to share, as well, we’re both better for it.
A week or so after the forum, I decided to finish my own "Where I’m From" poem, even though I don’t consider myself a poet and haven’t written a poem in decades. Not a traditional poem that my poetry professor from college would grade with love (to be honest, I never wrote a poem that my poetry professor graded with love). But I write in all different forms and I was this many years old, as in, RIGHT NOW, when I finally looked up the definition of poetry:
“Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm.”
In this context, with these prompts, I am a poet and so are you.
After completing my poem, I reflected on how much I enjoyed listening to the other people/poets. And I thought, “What if I shared these prompts and people shared their poems with me? Could be fun.”
I did that, and guess what? It is fun. It’s like mad libs for micro memoir and as someone just called me, I’m a Memoir Advocate.
I want to hear your story. I believe in the power of your story.
It’s brought me such delight to connect with people (some writers and poets, some not) in this way.
So far I've had the great joy and privilege to listen to the poems of and engage in wonderful conversation with:
#1 Mesa Fema
#2 Angelique Gagnon
#3 Kelly Burch
#4 Judith van Praag
#5 Aimee Seiff Christian
#6 Tiffany Babb
#7 Alexis Donkin
#8 Emily Brisse
#9 Giselle Interiano
#10 Elizabeth Heise
#11 Meg Nocero
#12 Stacy Mendell
#13 Ann Kelly
#14 Me & Anonymous
#15 Lucie Frost
#16 Vanessa King
#17 Peg Conway
#18 Emily Withnall
#19 Erik Sandstrom
#20 Aly Leavitt
#21 Maxine Lipner
#22 Fox Henry Frazier
#23 Gia Ruiz
#24 Buick Audra
#25 Michelle Yang
#26 Tonya Todd
#27 Maureen C. Berry
#28 Jody Ohlsen Collins
#29 Rosanna Staffa
If you’re interested in joining me on Instagram live and sharing a poem of your own, please, please email me at: email@example.com or DM me @byalysonshelton on Instagram
I’m happy to send you the prompts. Please do reach out.