In August we published our young people’s collaborative poem, ‘I come from’, which explored their feelings about belonging, and more broadly, aspects in their lives that have lived with them and which they felt they ‘came from’. These poems were inspired by Dean Atta’s poem of the same name. For our 26+ workshops, we repeated the activity, with really different results.
This poem has a more lyrical, exploratory shape to it, and participants often contributed more than one line, so that the poem is an amalgamation of individual poems. The overall piece has a strong thread of environmental or nature imagery running through it, suggestive perhaps of the rural experiences of some of our participants.
The final ‘I come from’ really hits home for me – ‘being asked the daft questions / I didn’t yet have the answers to’. The hint is perhaps that these answers are still to be negotiated, and may only ever be provisional.
I come from the belly of the earth,
from jellyfish and amoebae,
sharks teeth and rain clouds,
wild oats and silkworms,
puffer fish, waterfalls, mudslides and golden jackal scat
I come from seagulls and seashells and music and love
I come from Scotland, then a life of segments, compartments, boxes
I come from another world
I come from the calling of crickets and air beating off fenceposts
I come from the womb of a woman who loved her newborn
I come from the love of two people who were the best they could be
I come from a family, from the love they gave me
I come from good grades and vodka bottles
I come from duty and desire
I come from the oppressor and the oppressed
I come from the belly of the earth and the end of the Victoria Line
I come from amoebae and supernovae
I come from sharks teeth and milk teeth
I come from wild oats and oat milk in tetrapaks
I come from silkworms and nettle cordage
I come from puffer fish and puffs of smoke
I come from golden jackal scat and golden syrup
I come from tapioca cooked properly so it’s neither slimy nor sticky
I come from mermaids and magic, hairdressers and the zoo
I come from stone circles and pasties, sunsets and nightmares
I come from beauty, I come from shame
I come from being trusted from being told honesty is better than a lie told in regret
I come frog fishing with holes in a net
I come from dancing with a hairbrush to Carly Simons “coming around again”
I come from being a child in the eighties,
from Bros and Boy George pinned to my wall
I come from being in before dark,
and being asked the daft questions
I didn’t yet have the answers to.
— Richard Vytniorgu
(To cite: please credit University of Exeter).