Friday, February 19, 2016

An Appalachian Migration Slant on Kentucky's "Where I'm From" Project

 In 1993, George Ella Lyon, Kentucky's current poet laureate, wrote a now famous poem entitled "Where I'm From," documenting the experiences that shaped her growing up journey in the mountains of Harlan County, Kentucky.   Lyon has now challenged Kentucky residents from every Kentucky county to create their own "Where I'm From" poem.  Information for submission, as well as a copy of Lyon's original "Where I'm From" poem can be found here.  The submission deadline is March 7 if you wish to participate.

George Ella Lyon's challenge has inspired me to write my own "Where I'm From" poem...from the perspective of the child of Eastern Kentucky migrants.  I had so much fun writing this and I hope you enjoy!  (Don't forget to read George Ella's original version first at the link above.)

Appalroot Farm's Where I'm From

I am from blackberry dumplins                                
from half-runners and city streets.
I am from a baby blue station wagon.
(Back home and mountain bound,
heading south on 23.)
I am from briar scratched shins
and sidewalk scraped knees
two worlds marking and etching
one gangly legged girl.

Me in front, in the white and blue dress, with my family.
I'm from supper vs. dinner,
from Banquet pot pies and creasy greens.
I'm from the haves 
and the have nots (except I knew better), 
from mountain high and hoe cake flat!
I'm from Mamaw's beet egg Easters
watching for snakes
and "everybody and his Granny" Decoration Day highways.

I'm from uptown and up salt creek,
thin as hen skin and tough as whang leather.
From the factory floor my daddy's broke hip paced,
the cattle filled creek bottoms of my papaw's place.

Under quilts of old feedsack
my mother had me sleep,
as sirens howled and street lights shone.
I am from a mountain migration--
long before my time--
a "lift up thine eyes" Duke's mixture.


  1. This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing it and for letting other folks know about the project.

    For all our voices,

    George Ella

    1. Thank you so much, George Ella! Your comment made my day! P.S. We're huge fans of Trucks Roll! around here! Many blessings! -Lorene from Appalroot Farm

  2. Loved reading this on this rainy mountain day where I have been blessed to live out my days in the loving hollow of these hill!

  3. Enjoyed "Where I'm From" poem. Brought back a lot of memories. "Heading south on route 23" fit aptly too. After moving to Ohio in 1953 we traveled that route many, many times to get back to Dorton to see relatives every summer.

    1. Good old Route 23! I could drive it in my sleep, Tricia! :)

  4. What a wonderful poem! Thank you for sharing! I can relate to route 23. For me it was 27. It was the road home to TN before I75.