The “I Remember” Writing Assignment (after Joe Brainard)

Flower Painting IV by Joe Brainard.

“I Remember” exercise

This is the simplest and, in this instructor’s opinion, the most powerful of all writing prompts.

It is this: write pages of sentences that begin with the phrase “I Remember.” This assignment is based on a book of the same name by Joe Brainard, an artist and writer, who collected his “I Remember”s in several editions, and are available in book form.

An excerpt from I Remember is in your Readings folder.

Some “I Remember”s are very short, others a paragraph long. One I remember is usually not related to the next one, but sometimes are.


Do not focus on one period of your life. Include everything.

Include no fewer than 5 I Remembers that are full paragraphs (at least four sentences’ long).

Include no more than 5 I Remembers that use a single word or term (e.g., “I remember my first Xbox” or “I remember school band.”

Information and excerpts from Joe Brainard

lesson plan from Teachers & Writers Collaborative based on the “I Remember” exercise.

Short article on Brainard at The Academy of American Poets.

An excerpt from Frieze Magazine. Another excerpt here.  A couple more here.

From ArtVoice, “Remember Brainard.”

Joe Brainard’s collection of Nancy art works.

Poet David Lehman reads from I Remember (starting at the 21-minute mark).

Trailer for I Remember: A Short Film About Joe Brainard

Hilton Als reads from his I Remember-inspired memoir.

Some audio recordings of readings by Joe Brainard at PennSound (scroll down for I Remember excerpts).

Other writers’ Joe Brainard imitations, homages

Mary Ruefle’s “I Remember, I Remember”

Jon Emil Vincent‘s “I heart Joe Brainard, always will.”

Shane Allison‘s “I Remember, Joe.” Also his book called I Remember.

Dominique Russell’s Kensington, I Remember

George Bowering’s Memories of Greg Curnoe

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Filed under English105Fall2014, Writing Prompts

One response to “The “I Remember” Writing Assignment (after Joe Brainard)

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