Our Students, Our Poets

March 5, 2019

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” – Rita Dove

My Oral 4 class recently dedicated nearly a month of their lives to one of my first loves: poetry. As their teacher, I may have had a hand in forcing their dedication, but nevertheless, they welcomed this challenge and tapped into their impressively creative brains.

Over the course of our lesson, the students read, analyzed, wrote, and recited poetry; for many of them, this was the first time they had done this in English. I was so excited for them as they wrote their first poems and proudly (and maybe a bit shyly) stood up in front of their classmates and read them aloud. Of course, the audience is always warm at our school, so the poets were met with cheers and whoops and claps.

The last, and most challenging, poem the students wrote was the “Where I am From” poem. This is from a template developed by Kentucky author and teacher George Ella Lyon. I love this poetry exercise; I think it really helps to turn everyday students into magical poets.


The poems are proudly displayed in the Center for New Americans hallway.

I am sharing a few of the poems my students wrote here, but, if you are ever at the Center for New Americans, I reallyreallyreallyreally really encourage you to walk down our hallway and read all the poems for yourself. They are piercing, beautiful pieces. Our students’ words will stay with you for a long, long time.


Where I am From
I am from animal skin,
from fish and charcoal.
I am from the blue flag, big ocean, and tall camel.
I am from the jasmine flower and mango tree,
white petals and yellow, nice smell.
I am from Somali Danto and very helpful people,
from Ibrahim and Takow.
I’m from eating and storytime,
from pray! and study!
I’m from Islam.
I’m from Mogadishu, Somalia,
rice and cambulo.
From the love and strength of my special mom.
I am from these moments.

I am From
I am from the place of enterprising people.
From the Banda and Coconut candy.
I am from the smell of wet earth and the sound of birds,
from the people of happiness, friendship, and comfort.
I am from of the harvest of corn, the beautiful carnation.
I am from San Juan Festival in Purepero and Christmas.
I am from Celebration and eating together,
from Claudia and Jesus.
I am from the Football Players and Cheerful.
I am from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church,
from the red pozole and pork tamales.
I am from Purepero, Michoacan, Mexico.
I am from those Moments.

Where I am From
I am from a nation of poetry.
I am from a nation with beautiful crops,
maize and sorghum.
I am from a country with the national flower King Protea.
I am from the family tradition of tea and incense.
I am from a tall family, and I look more like my mother than my father.
I am from Cibado and Abdulahi, from Halimo and Cali.
I am from helpful and sharing.
I am from respect! pray! and be good!
I am from Islam,
from rice and fish.
I am from the peacemaker who was finally shot.

Where I am From
I am from lemon tree.
From the blue and white.
I am from the green land,
outside, lightning, best.
I am from the crops so green,
tall and yellow in color.
I am from Sudan and the Nile,
from the Kuku and the Kaka.
I am from the mud and the rainbow,
from the mango.
I am from sky and ground.
I am from love and joy,
clouds, foundation.
From my grandfather and grandmother.


To come read these words yourself, and to take a tour of our amazing school, contact Laura Smith-Hill, our Education Program Coordinator, at 605-731-2000.

By Lindy Obach, ESL Teacher, Center for New Americans

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