Creative Writing for Youth Workshops is a joint project of the Open Literary School of Almaty named after Olga Markova, Chevron company and the U.S. Consulate General Almaty. It is located in Almaty, Kazakhstan and run online courses for students all over Kazakhstan once a year. It is targeted at the authors aged 13-21 and aimed at teaching creative writing to emerging authors. Kazakh and Russian modules usually run simultaneously for 3-4 months.
Thanks to Erin Robertson, poet from the U.S., who visited Kazakhstan in September, 2022, teachers and students from the Creative Writing for Youth Workshops learned about the “I’m from” project and tried to write their own poems.
Alyona Timofeyeva (20 y.o.), Almaty, Kazakhstan
I am from…
I am from felt hats
From Greenfield and Reserved
A girl from Khrushchevka
Three-floored, with unpainted spots on the cladding
Like on avant garde painting
I am from daisies
Field but odorless
I am from 1st January meetings
With grandma’s laugh and cardboard shows on TV
I am from the one
who owns the world
And he is from the Victorious and Dolgorukiy
I am from boredom and support
From silly poems and gentle lullabies
I am from faith in handsome males
Which tends to disappoint me all the time
I am from Kazakh Russia and Jewish Kazakhstan
From salted watermelons and dry fruit compote
From granddad’s falling from the third floor –
He was dancing so hard that he flew over the balcony railing
I’m rom his dislocated kidney and broken ribs
I am from the brown Soviet headset
That keeps so many secrets
Which you’ll never find out
Even if you will.
Danila Toktasynova (21 y.o., Zhambyl region, Kazakhstan)
I am from the dust of the books in the archive.
I am from the law of nature that mixes oxygen with carbon dioxide.
I am from the space near the window.
Through transparent, clean glass one can see sadness from the other side of the world.
I am a green fir tree that never changes its color.
With my whole being I am trying not to change.
I am a short prayer that is said after eating.
I hide my feelings in my heart closed tight like a jar for winter.
I am from my grandmother’s prophetic dreams and my mother’s actions.
I am from the heat of the sauna which I take every Saturday, and from the cold aura of people.
I’m from “Wherever the front wheel of the cart goes, there the last wheel will go.”
I am one of those who live like the ummah of Muhammad.
I am from the mouth of the river Asa, from the line of Tole bi.
I am my mother’s bread, the banana that everyone eats with pleasure.
Before my father’s testament is gone, my grandfather’s adviser will be gone.
I am a storehouse of memories, old things, ghosts.
I keep them to revive the past.
To restore the days gone.
Diana Murzygaliyeva (16 y.o., Astana, Kazakhstan)
I am from thick grasses and Aloe Vera
I am from books and certificates
(books as life philosophy
and certificates are the way I have gone so far)
I am from energy, help, humanity and kindness
Tidying up and cooking thick pancakes at the weekend, walking tours, picnics and strolls
(warm, pleasant, my favourite)
I am from tulips that remind me of my home country – those like Greig’s tulip,
The symbol of nature reserve Aksu-Zhabagly (real paradise)
I am from family adventures
From Myrza, Oken, Serikzhan and Bota
From the quotation: “There is nothing impossible”.
I am from prophet Muhammad and the Goddess of the moon Diana
I am from ecohabits, from “I can cope with everything”, “I will have time for everything” and “Wonder is somewhere nearby”
I am from nuclear tests that were carried out near my hometown and influenced me
I am from a Kazakh family
From the dairy product Emil
From my delight while admiring the night sky and the stars together with my mum
I was about eight when I heard that my mum believed in extraterrestrials
From my dad’s big picture album and the war album where photos embodied my childhood, relatives, hometown anniversaries, those who are no more but who are forever in our hearts. The picture album kept their faces and memories of them.
Gulnur Muratbay (20 y.o. Almaty, Kazakhstan)
I’m from the bus stop.
I am from the last fallen leaf of the apricot tree,
I’m from the key to the fourteenth apartment,
(always needed and safe)
I’m from the torn tickets at the theater,
I am from the unfamiliar streets of Almaty.
I’m from the baby’s own language,
I am from my mother’s white hair,
I am from my father’s brown autumn coat,
If my religion is love,
then I’m from love
from friendship and trust…
Yes, I believe in God. I am from God.
I am from a drop of Caspian sea that was left on the shore,
I’m from the Olivier salad for the New Year’s table,
delicious and fun.
I am from the songs my mother and father memorized,
When they were young…
Nursultan Sarbay (18 y.o., Almaty, Kazakhstan)
I am from a stick.
From “Mukaltin” and “Maxi tea”.
I’m from the brick stairs
Warm, cold and safe.
I’m from a tall tree that fell after being struck by lightning.
I’m from the leftover coin in the piggy bank and drinking tea at one in the morning.
I’m from Ruslan and Asem.
I’m from family dinner and work early in the morning.
From “step with your right foot” and “pray before going to sleep.”
I’m from Islam and going to the mosque.
I am from Salkynkol and Chistopol.
Fried potatoes, pasta.
From the merry wedding of my uncle, my sister’s one-year-old daughter,
Album on the nightstand.
From love and memory.
Ruslan Ivanov (16 y.o. Almaty, Kazakhstan)
I’m from frost on the glass,
From milk and ice cream in a waffle.
I am from the walls, in lime glaze, in darkness,
Which froze inside, on the tiles.
I am from the leaves of a fleshy living tree,
In a ceramic shell, warmed by yellow light.
I’m from movies faded after time with black and white.
And from the candles in the sideboard, in the evenings without light.
I’m from a piece of synthetic winterizer,
In a hole of a jacket,
I’m from an old sled and rust metal.
And a snow figure.
I am from conversations that are heard at night,
Disputes at dinner, with a philosophical flavor,
I’m from “Sit down, your time is up”
And “Start to talk with meaning.”
I’m made of matter with a mixture of faith,
From disbelief not completed,
I am from a measure blooming at the end of the world,
Cities born in the void of the world.
I’m from a tincture, mixed with tea leaves
On the windowsill in a jar.
I am from a handful of sugar weighed
In the palm of my hand, and dry bread loaves.
I’m from an orphanage on the outskirts,
Where my father and I used to sneak in.
I’m from a hole in the fence,
Behind it, there is dusty grass, a spacious lawn.
I’m from a holey ball, crumpled
Which we played on that lawn.
I am from a cartridge with sloped sides,
Which we dissembled with the boys.
I am from rough linoleum in our house
We used to draw on it.
We remained on it as a blurry scene,
And created a picture in our memory.
Aleksandra Edel (13 y.o., Karaganda, Kazakhstan)
I am from stone
From cigarettes: Marlboro and Lark
I am from a brick house
Battered, old as it has always been, in an old neighborhood
I am from catkins of crack willow and weeping willow
That did not lower their eyes.
I am from movies, warmth.
From Mashka and Chris.
From music and quarrels
From “Do your homework” and ‘tidy up”
I am from “You can’t be like them, you believe in God”,
I am from the city of Qaraghandy, my home steppes
Apples, plums, grape clusters,
From my mother’s plastered leg (she broke it trying to catch the train), a hematoma on my sister’s body and a metal pipe that was used to murder her
From boxes, caskets, dusty closets and, of course, picture albums
From notepads, lines of old poems that store large amounts of memory.
Fatima Maisar (17 y.o., Almaty. Kazakhstan)
I am from orange juice
From the bedside table from Ikea and a plush toy.
I am from beige bricks with the initials of our family
Hard, made from stone, so familiar.
I am from the cactus named Nicole,
a prickly little thing.
I am from a turkey on New Year’s Eve and a good sense of humor
From Mukhtar and Ilgiza.
I am from watching TV series and videos together with my cats.
From “Put on your hat” and “Grades don’t matter”.
I am Islam, bedtime prayers
I am from Almaty, Tashkent, Shymkent
And a dog presented by Elbasy (President Nazarbayev)
A house in Shymkent
An apartment in Tashkent
Regina Rynkovskaya (16 y.o., Almaty, Kazakhstan)
I came from the smell of autumn wind,
From a cup of tea with fresh cut mint,
From a cozy house with many cats,
With love, that one could always get.
I came from dreams and stars, and tears,
I came from bravery and fears,
I came from where we all come from,
And yet we all have different homes.
Some come from orange peels and leaves,
Some come from rainy days.
One at a time we all will leave
And meet, we’ll meet again.
Rassul Kassymbekov (15 y.o., Astana, Kazakhstan)
I am from the capital of my country.
From “SPUTNIK” and “kumis”
I am from Astana, from Akmola
Not from the yurt, not from the steppe –
I am from the capital’s city center.
I’m from Berkut under the sun
blue sky on the background.
I am from Kazakhstan, Central Asia.
I’m from a country with two new years
Nauryz kozhe, Bauyrsak and kurt.
From grandpas and grandmas
Everyone here has read the “Way of Abai”
I’m from the seven shelpeks on Fridays,
From a Kazakh family.
I’m from Islam, atheism and Christianity,
Where everyone lives happily together.
I’m from Astana, not from Nur-Sultan.
Where hundreds of nations and peoples gather.
Where everyone eats beshbarmak with kumis.
From the people where everyone knows the great Abai,
The great poet, recognized by the whole world.
Where everyone knows Akhmet Baitursynov,
Teacher of the nation.
He’s beloved by all Kazakhs,
We call him “Atam”.
He is our unique figure.
Our memory of him is bright.
We keep all the memories,
Because we can’t forget them.
It’s very important – the Motherland, the heroes of the Nation.
Our language, culture and traditions.
After all, who else needs them
Other than us?