Identity Poem of Heritage

I am from books lining the shelf of an old library with the collected works of literature, philosophy, art, spirituality, science and nature, and from historical places that leave traces of the human souls that once walked the land.

I am from a lineage of people who once lived in the “City of God and the Frying Pans”, the home of copper pots situated in the heart of a French countryside surrounded by rivers and valleys, where snowy owls slept in the dovecote and where caramels and cheese were produced in local farms.

I am vibrant colors, sweeping landscapes of sprawling green fields and hilly pastures. I am weeping willows scraping the surface of water and diverse flowers appearing to have been plucked from one of Monet’s canvases.

Village of Hambye, FranceI am from stately castles, slightly askew manor houses, soaring cathedrals, products including copper pots, cider and Calvados (an apple brandy), ideal places for spontaneous rambling, picturesque routes for bike and horseback riders, and marinas for sailors.

Then again, I am from the bays, the harbors, sandy beaches, rocky inlets and sheer cliffs. I am a stable, cowshed, pressing and printing room, a parlor and vestry. I am old furniture fit for a Shakespearean play, tapestries, and paintings of nature’s stillness, beauty and grace.

Abbey of HambyeAs a child, I was told that I am from a long line of Hambye’s that were Vikings. We eventually settled in the Village of Hambye in Western France where the Abbaye d’Hambye of Benedictine Monks was founded in the medieval time of 1145. The famous ruins still stand today with many crows nesting in the broken tops of the arches.

My sister has traced our ancestry roots. We are from the descendants of Roger d’Hambye who in 1019 travelled to England and became the forefather for a strong line of Hamby’s (he dropped the “e” in the name), the most noted was Sir William Hamby who in 1614 maintained a large library of written books which was so massive in volume and diversity that it was unheard of during his time, and his gravestone was a full replica of himself that relatives placed in his honor out of great respect.

Spiritually, I am from a long line of healing voices, tender hearts and strong connections to strict silence out of respect for others when deep in stillness. Fraternal love has been our guiding light as early as the 10th century. In the family, I am the Protector of Souls traveling far and wide to seek out people I’ve known before.

Flemish from the Hambye Abbey, Hambye, FranceThough born in the Midwest, I spent most of my adult life in Northern California with connections to my lineage though I did not know this until recently. In San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral rests a medieval altarpiece that belonged to the Hambye Abbey for three centuries until the French Revolution (1789). A French collector purchased the Flemish and brought it to America where he sold it to William H. Crocker (Crocker Bank) of San Francisco who donated the artwork to Grace Cathedral in 1930. In 2002, French historians were able to finally trace the artwork to Grace Cathedral, enriching the story of the Hambye Abbey’s heritage.

On my mother’s side, I am a descendant of Sir John de Sutton VI of England. As Lord Steward in 1422, he brought home the body of King Henry V to England, and was chief mourner and carried the standard of King Henry V at his funeral. He had a long and successful career in the service of the royal court. Amongst his many appointments, he held the lieutenancy of Ireland and he fought throughout the wars with France and was a firm supporter of the House of Lancaster in the Wars of the Roses.

–genece hamby, contemporary artist & poet

The above is called an Identity Poem — if you’d like to write one about who you are, here’s the template that will help prompt your poem.

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product
name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective,
sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______
(plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from
_______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and
_______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______
(another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two
food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and
detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail
about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and
several more lines indicating their worth).



~ by Genece Hamby on March 16, 2008.

One Response to “Identity Poem of Heritage”

  1. Genece,
    Greetings from the sanctuary of stillness that Is Hambye.
    Love your poems and Yes it is just as you describe it. I can see where much of your art and sensitivity for people comes from. Thank you for your site always ejoyable to visit.


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