Check out our list with the best of the I am poem examples and learn how to write this reflective style of self-portrait poetry.
In 1993, poet and teacher George Ella Lyon decided to make a list of “where I’m from,” a decision made in response to a poem she read a few years before. The aspiring poet wrote the work down in a white and black composition notebook and eventually consolidated her list into “Where I’m From,” one of her most famous poems. This poem sparked a style of poetry known as the “I Am” poem. Today, teachers across the globe use her poem as a jumping-off point to teach their students that anyone can write poetry. Read our helpful guide to learn how to analyze a poem.
Today, there are two templates used for “I Am” poetry. The first follows Lyon’s Where I’m From format, basically creating a list of places or themes that make up who the person is. These poems start each line with “I am from,” then give the writer a specific thing to fill in the blanks, such as an item from their childhood home, products from the poet’s past or natural items tied to their past. This style of poetry has been so popular it sparked the Where I’m From Project, a database of poems that follow the template from people around the globe.
A second type of I Am poem is the I Am poem itself. This three-stanza poem follows a specific format, starting with an “I am” statement followed by:
- Another “I Am” statement
- I Wonder
- I hear
- I see (an imaginary sight)
- I want (an actual desire)
- Restatement of the first line
- I pretend (something to imagine0
- I feel (something you feel about an imaginary thing)
- I touch (an imaginary touch)
- I worry (a real worry)
- I cry (something sad)
- Repeat the first line
- I understand (something true)
- I say (something you believe)
- I dream (something you dream)
- I try (something you work at)
- I hope (something you hope)
- Repeat the first line
- Where I’m From Poem Examples
- 1. “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon
- 2. “Where I’m From” by Tracy K. Smith
- 3. “Where I’m From” by Sharon Lynn
- 4. “I Am From” by Mrs. Vaca
- 5. “Where I’m From” by Evelyn Smiley
- 6. “Where I’m From” by Judith Ortiz Cofer
- 7. “I Am From” by Jillian Christine Heise
- 8. “I Am From” by Wyatt Digs
- The I Am Poem Examples
- 9. “I Am a Nutty Guy” by Sandy Moss
- 10. “I Am Catherine” by Catherine Cook-Cottone
- 11. “I Am a Carefree Girl Who Loves Horses” by Elly Tatum
- 12. “I Am Polite and Kind” by Author Unknown
- 13. “I Am Understanding and Strong by Author Unknown
- 14. “I Am a Giver and a Learner” by Author Unknown
- 15. “I Am Artistic and Quiet” by Author Unknown
- 16. “I Am a Strawberry” by Aaron Ojalvo
- 17. “I Am” by Art Belliveau
- Classical Poetry I Am Poem Examples
- 18. “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman
- 19. “I Am!” by John Clare
- 20. “I Was Raised” by Makenzie Spruill
- 21. “Movement” by Octavio Paz
- 22. “I Am Fiery” by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
- 23. “I Am Nobody” by Emily Dickinson
- 24. “Self-Portrait” by Linda Pastan
- 25. “Ego Tripping” by Nikki Giovanni
Where I’m From Poem Examples
1. “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon
“Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon is the quintessential “I am” poem. It introduces the “Where I’m From” style with four stanzas. The first one starts every line with “I am from,” at the end of the poem, the reader can perfectly picture where Lyon came from and how she was brought up. This poem was written on behalf of the Kentucky Arts Council, and it sparked the creation of the I Am From Project, which invites others to write their own “Where I’m From” poetry and share it with a growing online community. The poem also sparked interest in using this form in the classroom to excite kids about poems.
“I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch. (Black, glistening, it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush the Dutch elm whose long-gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.
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 ten verses I can say myself.
I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dress boxGeorfe Ella Lyon, “Where I’m From”
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.”
2. “Where I’m From” by Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith tries her hand at the “Where I’m From” poem in this work. Though most of the poem is unavailable online, the stanza shows how the poet masterfully describes her upbringing in poetic verse. In it, she uses descriptive language to show where she came from, leaving little to the imagination. The reader comes away with vivid images of a challenging childhood and city life. Only one stanza is available online, but it’s enough to show her skill.
“I am from the rust-belt city, SpringsteenTracy K. Smith, “Where I’m From”
long gone, where factories gutted below
we lived always walking uphill both ways.”
3. “Where I’m From” by Sharon Lynn
Blogger Sharon Lynn took the Where I’m From template from Lyons and wrote her version of the poem, which she shared on Medium. The poem beautifully weaves in bits and pieces of her childhood culture to create a picture of who Lynn is. Throughout its lines, you capture pictures of favorite foods, the people who made her who she is today and some of the emotions she felt as a young girl.
“I am from shiny plates kept in wood, glass cases.
I am from brown couches and dark rooms with curtains that made it hard to let the light shine in, strangely hard to open
I am from backyard gardens merely started and grass sometimes perfectly cut by men whose attention I tried to win.
I’m from apples and honey and matzah ball soupSharon Lynn, “Where I’m From”
From Susan and Joel, Helen and Harry making our home darker and like a battle ground site, screaming and crying and disrespect
From Devorah, a child who made life bearable and silly and knowing my heart
From you’re a liar, only happy when you’re buying things and why can’t you be more like a girl with long braided hair who gets better grades than you.
I’m from synagogue on Saturdays.”
4. “I Am From” by Mrs. Vaca
Many of these poems are written by teachers to serve as examples for their students. Mrs. Vaca is one of these teachers who wrote a poem in the “I Am From” model as an example for her students. She talks about books, the mess of her dog’s hair in her home (which you can picture coming from a yellow lab after reading it) and even the trees and flowers where she grew up. The vivid imagery in this poem makes it a good example of this poetry style.
“I am from bookshelves,Mrs. Vaxa, “I Am From”
from vinegar and green detergent.
I am from the dog hair in every corner
(Yellow, abundant, the vacuum could never get it all.)
I am from Azaleas
the magnolia tree
whose leaves crunched under my feet like snow every fall.”
5. “Where I’m From” by Evelyn Smiley
In “Where I’m From,” the young writer expounds on the everyday experiences that make her who she is. From family dinners to the parent watching football on the couch, Evelyn Smiley isn’t a metaphorical creature but a person made up of everyday experiences. The reader walks away with a clear picture of who the girl is and what makes her tick. This poem was one of many written for the I am From Project, and it clearly shows how this style of poetry works for people of all ages.
“I’m from my mom’s dining corner in the dining roomEvelym Smiley, “Where I’m From”
and Thanksgiving Dinners.
I’m from knitting and sewing
while watching football on the couch.
I’m from yummy pizza nights at the beach
with garlic rolls and black olive pizzas.
I’m from eating Ruffles with French Onion Dip
while listening to Walker Hayes.”
6. “Where I’m From” by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Judith Oritz Cover is another famous poet who joined the Where I’m From movement. The famous writer’s poem draws a pretty picture of a small, cozy home near an airport. Again, the reader comes away with a clear picture of who Judith is and what made her into the writer she is today. This poem only has a tidbit online, but that tidbit shows the immersive style and captivating narrative of this talented poet.
“I am from a smoky little houseJudith Ortiz Cofer, “Where I’m From”
that shook when the planes
flew over and the church bells
rang long and low like thunder.”
7. “I Am From” by Jillian Christine Heise
When Jillian Christine Heise wanted to teach her students about the I Am poem, she decided to write her own. She didn’t follow the standard template, but she used important things to create a picture of who she is as a person. She opens the poem by talking about wildflowers, Christmas and Easter traditions and her Jewish heritage, but in a poetic voice.
“I am from wildflowers
and white Christmas lights
finding Easter eggs hidden in the mailbox
from the house decorated for
holidays throughout the year.
I am from Sunday school and
lighting the Menorah
Mom why not Mother
and Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Yay Daddy!
I am from books piled on the shelves
and kids lying on the couch enjoying them
pictures of smiling family on vacation
from tears and support
and love and laughter.
I am from mud hills and cul-de-sacs
and new neighborhoods all around.
I’m from swim team all summerJillian Christine Heise, “I Am From”
and weekend soccer games
Grandma and Grandpa in Arizona
and skiing trips to the Rockies.”
8. “I Am From” by Wyatt Digs
Wyatt Digs is one of many who contributed an “I Am From” poem to the I Am From Project. In his poem, he travels through his life and touches on many places he lived, from the trailer park to the city. Using sensory language, he creates a tangible picture of his experiences. The poem has a dark tone because he didn’t find living in the city to be very positive.
“I’m from lots of places
I’m from a trailer park away from the city
Where lots of strange people live With lots of junk lying around Brimming with childhood adventures
I’m from the city
Where the air is unpleasant
And the roads are often full. Riding my bike was an adventure, And an escape”Wyatt Digs, “I Am From”
The I Am Poem Examples
9. “I Am a Nutty Guy” by Sandy Moss
Sandy Moss used the I Am poem template to showcase his worries and aspirations. “I Am a Nutty Guy” is the result. In the middle stanza, he waxes eloquently about the dangers of the world and how they press down on his shoulders. The poet then brings it back to being a nutty guy who likes dolphins, even when he desires to fix the world’s problems. Many teachers use this poem as an example of the format, as it has all the stanzas perfectly displayed.
“I am a nutty guy who likes dolphins.
I wonder what I, and the world, will be like in the year 2020.
I hear silence pulsing in the middle of the night.
I see a dolphin flying up to the sky.
I want the adventure of life before it passes me by.
I am a nutty guy who likes dolphins.
I pretend that I’m the ruler of the world.
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I touch the sky, the stars, the moon, and all planets as representatives of mankind.
I worry about the devastation of a nuclear holocaust.
I cry for all the death and poverty in the world.
I am a nutty guy who likes dolphins.
I understand the frustration of not being able to do something easily.Sandy Moss, “I Am a Nutty Guy”
I say that we are all equal.
I dream of traveling to other points on the earth.
I try to reach out to poor and starving children.
I hope that mankind will be at peace and not die out.
I am a nutty guy who likes dolphins.” –
10. “I Am Catherine” by Catherine Cook-Cottone
The I Am poem template works well with self-care practices like yoga, and Catherine Cook-Cottone is a yoga enthusiast who wrote one for herself. “I Am Catherine” is a perfect example of the template in action. The poem’s first stanza depicts her wishes for her current life and future. The reader finishes this poem feeling relaxed and ready to take on life’s stressors.
“I am my future and my pastCatherine Cook-Cottone, “I Am Catherine”
I wonder if ghosts and angels tell tales
I hear songs in wind chimes
I see wishes in eyes
I want there to be answers
I am my future and my past”
11. “I Am a Carefree Girl Who Loves Horses” by Elly Tatum
Written by a young girl, “I Am a Carefree Girl Who Loves Horses” shows just how easy this poetry form can be to write. One of the reasons there are many worksheets and templates out there for this type of poetry is that it is something kids can write in their classes easily, even if traditional rhyming poetry is challenging for them. In this example stanza, you can clearly see the young girl’s passion for horses.
“I am a carefree girl who loves horses.Elly Tatum, “I Am a Carefree Girl Who Loves Horses”
I wonder if there was ever a horse that could fly.
I hear the stomping of a hundred Mustangs on the desert in Arabia
I see a horse with golden wings soaring into the sunset.
I want to ride swiftly over a green meadow.
I am a carefree girl who loves horses.”
12. “I Am Polite and Kind” by Author Unknown
Another example that follows the three-stanza template, “I Am Polite and Kind” does not have a published author. In the first stanza, the reader sees the person’s desire to have a happy future for their children and also their ability to imagine through hearing a unicorn’s cry or seeing the mythical city of Atlantis. The lines of this poem are short, but as this stanza shows, it follows the pattern well.
“I am polite and kindUnknown, “I Am Polite and LKind”
I wonder about my kids’ future
I hear a unicorn’s cry
I see Atlantis
I want to do it all over again
I am polite and kind.”
13. “I Am Understanding and Strong by Author Unknown
Written for a classroom example, “I Am Understanding and Strong” doesn’t have a credited author. However, it’s a great example of an I Am poem to use because it follows the template perfectly. The three stanzas stay with the theme of being understanding and strong, and they discuss all of the different components of this poetry style. The final stanza shows a variety of feelings and thoughts from the poet.
“I understand I have my parents and family’s supportUnknown, “I Am Understanding and Strong”
I say go big or go home. Put in all of your effort
I dream of becoming successful
I try to do very good in school
I hope I can make my family even prouder
I am understanding and strong”
14. “I Am a Giver and a Learner” by Author Unknown
Another example written to use in a classroom without a credited author, “I Am a Giver and a Learner,” also follows the example template well. It opens with the poet saying they wonder about their future and ends with them understanding they know they can earn a place in this world if they work hard.
“I wonder about my futureUnknown, “I Am a Giver and a Learner”
I hear my mom saying, “I’m proud”
I see world hunger/poverty
I want success
I am a giver and a learner”
15. “I Am Artistic and Quiet” by Author Unknown
In “I Am Artistic and Quiet,” the author explores the benefits of being artistic and quiet in nature. It shows the introspection that comes from being a quiet soul and also the worries that this type of personality can bring. The first two stanzas are a good way to showcase this poetry style.
“I am artistic and quietUnknown, “I Am Artistic and Quiet”
I wonder what scholarships I’ll take
I hear the chattering of people
I see the friendships they hold
I want to help my mother
I am artistic and quiet”
16. “I Am a Strawberry” by Aaron Ojalvo
“I Am a Strawberry” is a whimsical take on the I Am poem, looking at the pottery from the point of view of a juicy strawberry. The author, Aaron Ojalvo, writes as if he is the fruit observing the world around him. He uses tangible, descriptive words to create the feeling of a warm summer day and the strawberry’s desire to be picked and eaten, fulfilling its fruity destiny. To fully appreciate this example, you need to read all of the stanzas.
“I am sweet and juicy
I wonder why I have to wait ’till spring to bloom and grow
I hear the birds: they’re back and flitting, flying by the sun
I see the patch is getting picked: the caring hand approaches
I want to end up in a pie and eaten with a fork
I am sweet and juicy.
I pretend I’m deep, dark red
I feel heavy on the vine
I worry I’ll be picked too soon
I cry when fruit is too tart
I am sweet and juicy
I understand I’m good for youAaron Ojalvo, “I Am a Strawberry”
I say I’m nature’s candy
I dream of rhubarb, crust, and cream
I try to bring the taste of spring
I hope I’m picked real ripe and red, then
I am sweet and juicy”
17. “I Am” by Art Belliveau
Teachers often write examples of poetry they want their students to learn to write, and “I Am” by Art Belliveau is yet another example of this. This poet uses his love of teaching as the basis for his poem, applying the classroom to the various statements that make up the template. With it, he also inspires his students to work harder and to appreciate his input into their lives.
“I am a hard working teacher who loves to laughArt Belliveau, “I Am”
I wonder how my students will do this year
I hear their brains clicking
I see the light in their eyes
I want them to want to succeed
I am a hard working teacher who loves to laugh.”
Classical Poetry I Am Poem Examples
18. “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman
Though it doesn’t say “I am,” the poem “Song of Myself” is definitely a description of the poet Walt Whitman, making it a good choice to add to this list. In fact, his ability to use descriptive language to create a self-portrait may have set the stage for the modern “I am” poetry style. In the poem, Whitman also celebrates himself and what makes him who he is.
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”
19. “I Am!” by John Clare
“I Am!” by John Clare is one of the first examples of an “I Am” style poem. It was written long before Lyon and other modern poets but starts with the statement “I am.” The autobiographical poem speaks of loneliness and lost love.
“I am-yet what I am none cares or knows;John Clare, “I Am!”
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes-
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,”
20. “I Was Raised” by Makenzie Spruill
Another poem from the I Am From Project, “I Was Raised,” takes a different twist on the standard template. Instead of the first line of the poem starting with “I am from,” it starts with “I was raised.” The idea of the poem, using simple, short phrases to describe who you are in poem form, remains the same, so it does fit the genre even though it breaks the mold slightly.
“I was raised in a small town,Makenzie Spruill, “I Was Raised”
Where everyone knows everyone
But are always apart
And whenever they see you they say, “look how much you’ve grown”
I was raised in the grass,
Where I first learned to ride a bike
To then fall many times on the rocks
And eventually, chip my tooth.”
21. “Movement” by Octavio Paz
In “Movement,” Octavio Paz, the 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, gives his take on the I Am poem. He compares himself to another, the hearer of the poem, with several couplets of contrasting statements. Though this doesn’t follow the template at all, it is a great example of a poet using verse to describe themselves.
“If you are the amber mareOctavio Paz, “Movement”
I am the path of blood
if you are the first snowfall
I am the one who lights the brazier of the dawn
if you are the tower of the night
I am the nail burning in your forehead
if you are the morning tide
I am the cry of the first bird
if you are the basket of oranges
I am the knife of the sun”
22. “I Am Fiery” by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
Another classic poem that takes on the “I am” statement, “I Am Fiery” by Spanish poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer is a bit risque, so it may not be appropriate for the classroom. Still, it is an interesting look at yet another way to take the “I am” statement and turn it into poetry, and it shows how this type of autobiographical, self-portrait poem has been around for a long time.
“I am fiery, I am brunette,Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, “I Am Fiery”
I am the symbol of passion,
my soul is full of desire for pleasure.
Are you looking for me?”
23. “I Am Nobody” by Emily Dickinson
“I Am Nobody” is a unique spin on the I Am poem written by famous poet Emily Dickenson. Dickenson was known for her depression and low moods, so it’s not surprising that she said, “I am nobody.” Still, It can be a great example poem to use when helping students brainstorm about this form of poetry.
“I’m Nobody! Who are you?Emily Dickenson, “I Am Nobody”
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!”
24. “Self-Portrait” by Linda Pastan
In “Self Portrait,” poet Linda Pastan uses sensory words to explore who she is. The words of the poem tie in her autobiographical ideas to thoughts of the seasons. This allows her to use sensory words throughout the piece. While it doesn’t follow any of the example patterns, it does explore who she is, and deserves a spot on this list.
“I am child to no one, mother to a few,Linda Pastan, “Self-Portrait”
wife for the long haul.
On fall days I am happy
with my dying brethren, the leaves,
but in spring my head aches
from the flowery scents.”
25. “Ego Tripping” by Nikki Giovanni
Several stanzas of “Ego Tripping” take on the idea of the I Am poem. Like the others from famous poets, it doesn’t follow either template, but it’s still a beautiful example of poetry that celebrates the poet’s self. The poem does sound a little braggadocious, but that’s not surprising since its name has to do with the ego.
“I am so hip, even my errors are correctNikki Giovanni, “Ego Tripping”
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents”
Interested in this topic? Check out our list of famous poems about love!
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