September 14, 2018

Poetry Friday--I Am From Project

Several Poetry Friday bloggers have mentioned the "I Am From Project" in posts over the past few months. Read the origin of the project here, and find George Ella Lyon's inspirational poem, "Where I'm From<" here.

I've seen poems by several P.F. peeps on the Project's "Poems" page. (There's also a Facebook page here.)

My recent contribution to the Project is an illustrated cherita.

It is only a single aspect of where I'm from, but, it's an important one--my immigrant roots. I may have taken some liberty with the neighborhood, since I don't know for certain that any of my Polish grandparents lived in tenements, but, the laundry-hung-across-alleys memories are real!


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress, circa 1900-1910, Detroit Publishing Co.

Text:

I am from

laundry lines crisscrossing
New York's tenement alleys

starched shirts gotchies skirts
babushkas pants all in a tangle
of mamas' apron strings


A bit of explanation: gotchies are underpants. When I was a child, in my grandmother's home, we called them "gitchie-gotchies." A babushka is a head scarf that ties under the chin.

Here's a poem from a P. F. post in 2014 that also touches on where I'm from:


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. "Apples and Pears" by Carl Eduard Schuch courtesy The Athenaeum, cropped to fit the poem.

Text:

Apple Pie

Her baking repertoire was
limited and rarely used,
but her apple pie was
memorable for its simplicity.

Sour apples sliced, with
only a hint of sugar and
cinnamon to coat them
made a pie unlike others'.

Did her pie turn me away
from the gaggingly sweet
or did it merely validate
the acerbic already in me?

Was it more basic--a genetic
predisposition to disdain
sugar since we had come
from Polish peasant stock?

Sweet was never freely
available, nor ever expected
to be a part of our lives, so
we came to love the sour.

I hope you all will take part in the I Am From Project, and I look forward to seeing your contributions!

Amy is hosting the Round-Up at The Poem Farm where she has a bumper crop of poetry waiting to be picked!

21 comments:

  1. I am stretched in more than one way, but this post is noted, Diane, for that "I Am From" challenge and for your inspiration, too. In my own past, my laundry memories are from long clotheslines, with those steel poles we used to hang from, having no jungle gyms nearby. I love your cherita and the picture, feels very neighborly. The apple pie and response to sweetness is interesting to me. I had bread, butter & sugar sandwiches which the thought of now makes me frown, but I do remember liking them. I love your ending of that 2nd poem, thoughts of where the sour propensity emerged. Thanks for bringing up my own memories.

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    1. Memories engender other memories--now you've got me thinking of my mother's cinnamon toast!

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  2. Your poems bring back memories of my own childhood, growing up with the influence of my parents' Swedish & German heritage...thanks for sharing.

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    1. It's good to look back to where we came from.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your origin poems with us, Diane. "We came to love the sour" is a great ending/insight. "Gotchies" (and "gitchie-gotchies") are fun words to bring into a poem.

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    1. Gitchie-gotchies was always good for a giggle, too!

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  4. Enjoyed these, Diane -- happy to learn about gitchie-gotchies and a bit more about your heritage. Liked your interesting reflection on coming to love the sour. Made me think how European pastry in general is much less sweet than American stuff.

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    1. I'm wondering if anyone else remembers the term? I believe it has an eastern European origin.

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  5. Oh, I remember that apple poem... and love reading your newer cherita, too. Such potent imagery in those few lines, with all those tangled relationships and their threads. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. And all the clothes lines intersected.

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  6. I love how your "I am from poem tied all the parts together into your "mamas' apron strings." Seems like there are layers beyond this last line of your "Apple pie" poem "we came to love the sour." Thanks Diane.

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    1. I'm not sure about the layers, but I am sure that my family never like sweet. Fried--that's something else!

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  7. I love both your poems, Diane, and the word gitchie-gotchies is so much fun.

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    1. They were sure funny looking, too. Thicker cotton than normal underwear.

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  8. I love the specific images in your poems, especially Mama's apron strings.

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  9. I love both poems, especially how they remind us that we are from many places and people and things. I'm imagining a world where the question "Where are you from" begins a long conversation of sharing memories and finding connections rather than just a city or state or country.

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    1. Probably the easiest way to get people talking is to ask about the foods they remember from their childhoods.

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  10. My husband grew up with Hungarian parents who referred to men's underwear as gotchush (phonetic spelling), though I can't for the life of me find the actual Hungarian word by googling. I'm thinking that, like gotchies, it must have been a nickname. I also haven't found (written) my own "Where I'm from" poem yet, but haven't given up hope either.

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    1. I look forward to reading it Michelle. Maybe we'll find the root word for gotchie/gotchush! Eastern European for sure!

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  11. "Gitchie-gotchies!" I am in love with this word! Thank you for these poems - the way you tangle those clothing words together and bring them together with apron strings is lovely. And family recipes. Your poem makes me think about how it is all and always about so much more than the food. Thank you. xx

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