Memories make rich subject matter for poetry. Whether you write about nostalgia for a carefree summer vacation or the sting of a painful loss, "I Remember" poems bring to mind not only the emotions you felt at the time, but numerous sensory details and an idea of what the experience means to you today. The "I Remember" poem exercise provides a structure for arranging the most important details into a compact portrait of your most vivid memories using your personal voice.
Choosing Your Memory
The educational resources organization Teachers and Writers Collaborative, or TWC, suggests that focusing on one single memory allows you to create a more realistic portrayal in your poem. You can brainstorm your poem by making a list of memories you recall in detail. After that, select the one that is most vibrant and significant. Many students assume that poetry has to be dark and sad, but an "I Remember" poem can evoke positive memories, too. For example, you might write about the first time you visited the ocean as a child.
Mining Your Memory
TWC also writes that reading an "I Remember" poem should be like looking at a family picture; the important details should be clear, visible and well-defined. One way to mine your memory for detail is to list as many sensory descriptions of the event as you can recall. For example, you might remember the feeling of the sand eroding beneath your feet, the smell of the salty air and the sounds of seagulls and tourists laughing. You can also consider the overall significance of the memory and what it means to you years later.
According to the non-profit poetry organized Spoken Word Lab, the poem repeats the phrase "I remember" each time a new detail is introduced. However, the organization of the lines doesn't have to be rigid; some aspects of the memory may continue for two or three lines, as in Joe Brainard's poem "I Remember." To construct your poem, you can use your sensory brainstorming list to make each detail its own line or to group together similar details. For your ocean poem, the first line might read, "I remember sand shrinking in my toes, the pull of the sea."
Read Write Think states that ultimately, poetry about memory should leave readers with a sense of why this particular recollection is significant. One way to end your poem is having your final line relate this information. You can state the significance directly, saying of the ocean, "I remember its vastness, being overwhelmed." You could also be more indirect and metaphorical, ending with the line, "I remember the horizon, an illusion of an ending." Leaving the reader with a culminating line will transform your poem from a list of details into a complete picture.