Welcome to Poetry Friday!















Why I’m Here

I’m here to make pancakes
when it’s hard to go to school.
I’m here to save the crossword
and talk about the day. I’m here
to be calm when others can’t,
to hug and find what’s lost.
I’m here to listen. I’m here to cry.
I’m here to make a warm chair
for a spiraled, sleeping cat. I’m
here to walk in the woods and find
the purple crocus hiding in the snow.
I’m here to pet the ancient pug
and say hello to the gray-haired
woman who lives across the street.
I’m here to sit at my desk and stare
at a blinking cursor on a white page
and tap, tap, tap the keys to make
letters, images, melodies. I’m here
to tinker and reshape, to follow
unintentional leads. I’m here
to share my words and hope
someone will understand.


I hope you all know George Ella Lyon’s beautiful poem “Where I’m From.”

I love that poem. I love the powerful connection between the intimately concrete, her heritage, and her identity. I know many schools use the poem as a model for student writing. I’ve used it as a model to write about my family and identity too.

It’s also a model and inspiration for the poem above. In our busy rush-rush world where we’re all racing to get through our lists of things to do, I think it can be hard to remember why we’re here. It can be hard to connect to the important things that give our lives meaning. I wanted to take the time to think about why I’m here. As with George Ella Lyon’s poem, I’ve tried to use the particular and the concrete to connect me to my deeper commitments. I was hoping to connect the things I actually do to the why I do them.

I think I’ve wanted to write this kind of poem ever since I saw this TED talk by the artist Candy Chang. In mourning for a loved one, she got some friends together to paint an abandoned building in her neighborhood in chalkboard paint. She then stenciled the phrase “Before I die I want to __________” all over the building. By the next day the building was covered in answers: some humorous, some concrete and manageable, some tender, and some hugely ambitious. She doesn’t say it in her talk, but I saw the building as a poem written by a community. Other communities, inspired by the project, have made their own versions.

With all of this in mind, I wrote “Why I’m Here.” I hope maybe some of you will want to write a “Why I’m Here” poem too.

Please share your links below, go visiting, leave lots of comments, and have a wonderful Poetry Friday!



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35 replies
  1. Liz Steinglass
    Liz Steinglass says:

    Hi there! I know it says my inlinkz account is expired, but the linkup still works if you click on the here. Sorry about the confusion.

  2. April Halprin Wayland
    April Halprin Wayland says:

    Liz! I love the spiraled cat and I love you pondering the question and I LOVE that you saw the painted building as a community poem.

    Ah, yes, we forget to stop rushing about. I forgot to be kind today when someone sped into my lane of traffic and I had to brake fast. I honked my horn–and what, exactly, was my horn saying? Was it saying, “Hey, I hope everything’s okay, glad we’re both safe, have a good day”? Probably not. Thank you for reminding me.

    I’m going to teach my class in a few minutes…and we TeachingAuthors are each posting about our favorite parts of teaching.

    My post (in which you can see a drawing of me as a balding, male teacher) is called The #1 Best Thing About Teaching and goes live Friday morning: http://www.teachingauthors.com/2018/02/the-1-best-thing-about-teaching.html

    Thank you so much for hosting!

  3. Robyn Hood Black
    Robyn Hood Black says:

    Hi, Liz – thanks so much for hosting this week. I am so grateful you ARE here on this earth, for all those reasons and for poetry and thoughtfulness and kindness! And, fun. Love that “spiraled, sleeping cat” image. (And, yes, George Ella Lyon’s poem is such a treasure and a catalyst!)

  4. jama
    jama says:

    Love your poem and the one by Lyons too. Those specifics say so much. Of course I especially love that you started with making pancakes. 😀 Thanks so much for hosting this week!

  5. Alan j Wright
    Alan j Wright says:

    Thank you for hosting Liz. You have delivered a pearl of a poem. The use of a repeated refrain has been so expertly explored in your thoughtful word pictures. I find myself attracted to repetition and word patterns in poetry. It frequently provides a supportive scaffolding when we set about exploring our world. Your poem certainly links well with the George Ella Lyon poem. You have provoked our collective thoughts and stimulated possibility with this post. Congratulations.

  6. lindabaie
    lindabaie says:

    I love reading your poem, a pure reflection that I, and we, enjoy, but really for you, I imagine. Thanks for it, Liz. I like the challenge of writing one, think I might have done it in prose for this Friday’s post! And thanks for hosting!

  7. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
    Michelle Heidenrich Barnes says:

    How nice to be greeted by your “found” crocus at the top of this post, Liz. 🙂 I love this poem not only for the words themselves, but for what they represent. Imagine if everyone introduced themselves with a poem instead of a handshake—what a different world that would be! One that was empathetic rather than judgmental. Sigh. Looking forward to checking out that TED talk.

  8. Michelle Kogan
    Michelle Kogan says:

    A grand idea, to write “Why I’m Here.” Definitely slows one down which I welcome. I loved hearing and seeing George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From” it’s inspiring and so textural.
    “I’m here
    to tinker and reshape, to follow
    unintentional leads.” Yes!
    Thanks for your rich posting, the links and for hosting this week!

  9. cvarsalona
    cvarsalona says:

    Liz, thank you for hosting and sharing your poem. I read your other posts with the Lyons poem and your haiku. Each post was inspiring. I hope you will offer one of your poems for my winter gallery. I am also thinking about slowing down the pace this week. I always feel that I am rushing through life so I am trying to be more mindful.

  10. mbhmaine
    mbhmaine says:

    Thanks so much for hosting and for sharing your poem and the links. I’m definitely going to check out that TED talk when I have time. I am always deeply moved when people create beauty from the midst of grief and pain.

  11. maryleehahn
    maryleehahn says:

    I will DEFINITELY be trying a “Why I’m Here” poem. I love this slant on the “Where I’m From” form SO. MUCH.

    And lookie there. You write about a community poem written on a wall, and today I have a community poem written in blog comments (sort of a wall?) last week. A found poem. A treasure.

    Thanks for hosting!

  12. Matt Forrest Esenwine
    Matt Forrest Esenwine says:

    Thanks for hosting, Liz! Very touching poem…personal and yet universal in many ways. And what a cool story about Ms. Chang. Today’s a busy day at the ol’ Triple-R: I have a short little poem originally shared on Michelle H. Barnes’ blog, a winner of “School People” to announce, and details about Pat Lewis’ latest National Geographic poetry book! https://mattforrest.wordpress.com/2018/02/23/poetry-friday-epitaph-for-a-mayfly/

  13. margaretsmn
    margaretsmn says:

    Your poem is exactly what I needed to read today. With this latest shooting, I am finding myself more anxious than ever before. Your line “I’m here to make pancakes when it’s hard to go to school,” made me realize that no matter what, we will go on. My mother made us pancakes and when I return home, that is a treat I cherish. These simple things will gets us through and give us hope. Thanks!

  14. Diane Mayr
    Diane Mayr says:

    Thanks for hosting today! I have a sleeping cat haiku today at Random Noodling, and “To a Kitten” at Kurious Kitty, so it looks like Cat Week for Poetry Friday. Congratulations on your DC poet award–well done! And, I guess I’m here to feed the cat.

  15. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
    Amy Ludwig VanDerwater says:

    I am so glad you are here, Liz. Thank you for hosting today and for doing all of these things you do “here” that make the world a richer, kinder place. Each line of your poem could be its own poem. I’ll be trying this this week. Peace. xx

  16. Kay Mcgriff
    Kay Mcgriff says:

    Beautiful poem. I loved sharing George Ella Lyon’s poems and invitation with my students every year. They wrote such good stuff from it. Now I’m eager too try out your invitation of why I’m here. It is so important to remember in the midst of everything that’s going on. Thanks for hosting today!

  17. Becky Shillington
    Becky Shillington says:

    Thank you for hosting today, Liz! Your poem is beautiful, and captures so many moods and layers of what makes you YOU. It is wonderful! 🙂

  18. Alice Nine
    Alice Nine says:

    Thanks for hosting today, Liz! Pancakes sound yummy! Your last line resonates with me: “… I’m here / to share my words and hope / someone will understand.”

  19. Bridget Magee
    Bridget Magee says:

    I am thankful you are here, Liz, and I really like your poem. I saw a crocus this morning! I am looking forward to a spring warm up – this Swiss winter is much different than Tucson. (understatement) 😉


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