One of our favourite writing exercises is to use Joe Brainard’s epic poem, “I Remember,” as a structural tool to collect memories, secrets, stories, and warm up our writing muscles. Here are “I Remember” excerpts from some participants of Birds of a Feather: Stories of Home & Migrations, a writing workshop in collaboration w/ Queens Memory Project, July 29, 2016:
I remember when I arrived [in] this country and everything called my attention.
I remember when I went to Time Square to look at tourists watching me.
I remember when my sister talked to me about life and what we could do with ours.
I remember my grandmother making orange juice and scolding her grandchildren for riding bikes for miles when she had breakfast prepared for us.
I remember making a mud cake in a place house in the lilac bushes.
I remember sneaking upstairs in my grandparents’ farmhouse and putting on wooden Dutch clogs– how they swallowed my tiny feet.
I remember finding the Dutch clogs years later, after my grandmother came home from the Haitian mission, and expecting them to swallow my feet. To my amazement they didn’t fit.
I remember tearing the pages out of my journal that weren’t happy enough.
I remember going to Girl Scouts and not joining because I was afraid to speak.
I remember moving to Brooklyn and my dad asking me why the bridge was packed. It was Pride Weekend. I didn’t want to try and explain.
I remember making friends with a fuzzy black cat who hung around the church next door.
I remember sitting alone in my room, using my cabinet as a computer desk, and my blow-up mattress all lumpy.
I remember the trick step on the 3rd floor and the Barbie pink walls.
I remember the day my family left me behind.
I remember strangers look at me with sympathetic stares.
I remember the day when I looked at my mom as though she was a stranger.
I remember the nice guy sitting next to me on the plane who offered me his grapefruit juice.
I remember walking on the ledge watching Harlem spread out in front of me.
I remember my father telling me, “This will be your last shoulder ride kid,” too many times.
I remember the story of the war was the same as what I had read the day before and the day before that. It wasn’t going to get any better until it ended. The end of the war would signify another, different problem. But his daughter is here and he loves her as much as he could love anyone.
I remember my hot, NYC outings: sizzling, scorching, steaming mid-day sojourns with my Irish mother to the East River paradise awaiting just the two of us.
What do YOU remember? We hope you take some time to write your own “I Remember” poem.