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.

Writers use this to brainstorm for topics more stuctured narratives, to jog our memory and get everything down, to write something as a standalone piece, or all of the above.

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 our Dropbox folder, as well as other I Remember-inspired writing.


Read from Joe Brainard’s I Remember, as well as selections from other I Remember-inspired writing (Allison, Bowering, Russell) to get an idea about the form.

Write your own version of “I Remember.” Just let each memory come to you. Do not focus on one period of your life. Include everything.

Some “I Remember”s are very short, others paragraphs long. Try to vary up the length and not, simply, write one-word “I Remembers” (i.e., “I remember kindergarten,” “I remember ice cream”), which can get repetitive and does not lend itself to detail and narratives.

Try this: Include no fewer than 5 “I Remembers” that are full paragraphs (at least four sentences’ long). Also: Include no more than 5 “I Remembers” that use a single word or term (i.e., “I remember my first Xbox” or “I remember school band.”

One “I remember” is usually not related to the next one, but sometimes are.

Write no less than 750 words.

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)

  1. Pingback: Eng328 Assignments for Week of September 14-16 « Daniel Nester's Teaching Blog