Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Am Writing My Name

The French poet Edmond Jabes once wrote: "When, as a child, I wrote my name for the first time, I realized I was beginning a book."

When a child learns to write their name they then write it everywhere: on the sidewalk, on the wall, in their pudding. Get the picture?

I learned this best from my own kids (my son continues to "sign" his signature on those things that belong to him, and also on some things that don't). The other day my fourteen year old daughter was on her hands and knees in the street (during a block party) writing her name on the concrete in yellow and pink. 

Do we ever outgrow our fascinations with our names? To this day I sometimes with just the tip of my finger scribble my name in the dust of my desktops, in the breadcrumbs of the dinner table. Enough about me.

Here's a poem that says what I'm trying to say better than I am able to say it.

I Am Writing My Name

I am writing my name
across the sky, across the clouds,

I am writing my name
across the street, across my rooftop,

I am writing my name
across my arm, across my education,

because I want to leave a mark.

Quentin S.
3rd Grade
InsideOut Student
Detroit Public Schools

Poets and graffiti artists both—Marcus Was Here..... Johnny Was Here....

We all just want to "leave a mark."


  1. I have to practice writing my name. I've been writing it in some ugly places over the past many years.

  2. Yaught. I have also added my name to some serious garbage.
    Anyhow, I am changing my name to Pete.

  3. Here's another great poem, Tom, that your comments made me think of:


    I am
    my name
    the front
    of God's

    Keith H.
    3rd grade

  4. People of a certain age remember the great wave of name graffiti writing in NYC and vicinity. The idea was to write your name or nickname and then the number of the street where you lived. The famous one was "Taki183", for a kid named Taki (diminutive of Demetrius) who lived on 183rd St. Soon loads of other people were writing, not their own names, but Taki183 on walls sidewalks, school desks etc. I joined in and wrote it on a few desks in my high school in Teaneck, NJ (a few miles from NYC across the GW bridge). Why did I do that and not write my own name? Aside from the fact that I did not live on a numbered street, I think that joining in on Taki's name was a way of tasting his few weeks of glory. Then there was that earlier bit of name graffi in public places, in honor of a dead tenor sax player: 'Bird lives.' Of all the praises of the departed Charlie Parker, perhaps that name writing campaign was the greatest of all.