RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Our friend and resident poet Kwame Alexander is back with us for one of our regular poetry call outs. Hi, Kwame.
KWAME ALEXANDER, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: Did you know this? It has been two years since we started doing these segments together.
ALEXANDER: No way.
MARTIN: It has.
ALEXANDER: Get out.
MARTIN: The time has flown. And you are flying. You are flying across the ocean. You are leaving us.
ALEXANDER: Great segue.
MARTIN: Was it?
ALEXANDER: ...I am - and metaphorically - I am going across the pond, as it were.
MARTIN: And moving to London, which - I am sad, but I'm very happy for you because it's a great opportunity.
ALEXANDER: I am thrilled, Rachel, to be the innovator-in-residence at the American School of London for the next year. I'll be writing. But I'll remember this place, this time, this work that we'll continue to do.
MARTIN: I want to bring up a poem and have us read some of it because it relates to that idea, right? It is remembering where you're from in order to move forward. This is a poem by George Ella Lyon.
ALEXANDER: I know that poem.
ALEXANDER: It's a collection of memories from her past.
MARTIN: Right. So let's read this together. I'll start. (Reading) I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon tetrachloride. I'm from the dirt under the back porch - black, glistening, it tasted like beets. I'm from the forsythia bush, the Dutch elm whose long-gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.
ALEXANDER: (Reading) I'm from fudge and eyeglasses, from Imogene and Alafair. I'm from the know-it-alls and the pass-it-ons, from perk up and pipe down. I'm from He restoreth my soul with a cottonball lamb and 10 verses I can say myself.
MARTIN: Oh, I love that. That is an excerpt from "Where I'm From." It's by Appalachian poet and children's author George Ella Lyon.
ALEXANDER: And it's often used as a jump-off for kids and adults to share their own remembrances from family sayings to the smells that bring childhood to life. It's like a time capsule of memories.
MARTIN: So we want you, MORNING EDITION listeners, to write one of these yourselves. Draw on all five senses and use memories of your own to craft poems that reflect the people and the places that you came from.
ALEXANDER: You can do it. I mean, for example - I am from words and art and books. I am from discipline and hard work, the sound of coins in a jar. Your turn, Rachel.
MARTIN: OK. I am from wheat fields and combine rides, storytellers, long hugs and casual conversations with strangers.
ALEXANDER: Ladies and gentlemen, what a fine poem.
MARTIN: Do you like that?
ALEXANDER: I love it.
MARTIN: I always find that a little hard. So just write the words that come to you. Tell us where you're from in your own words. Send your submissions in writing. Or you can record a voice memo by going to npr.org/myroots. Kwame, the next time you and I get back together, which might be remotely because, we should say again...
ALEXANDER: I'll be across the pond, but...
MARTIN: Across the pond.
ALEXANDER: ...I'll be here in my heart.
MARTIN: OK. Of course. So we will read or play a few of the poems that you all send us.
ALEXANDER: I can't wait for this.
MARTIN: Kwame Alexander is a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION and the inaugural innovator-in-residence at the American School of London. You are so fancy. Go innovate, my friends.
ALEXANDER: Cheers, mate.
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