Writing Mini-Lessons: Paint Me Like I Am, Poetry of Identity

“Paint me as I am, said Cromwell,
Rough with age and gashed with wars;
Show my visage as you find it,
Less than truth my soul abhors.”

~ James Thomas Fields in his poem, "On a Portrait of Cromwell"

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
~ Aristotle

Poetry is exploration and invitation. It allows reader and writer to explore multitudinous aspects of self and life, looking at, into, around, toward, and beyond. Through poetry, truths may be revealed that firsthand experience alone cannot divulge. As such, poetry allows you to reflect on who you are and who you want to be, as well as how others see and portray you. Most of us yearn to be understood as we truly are at our core when we are endeavoring to be the best incarnations of ourselves.

Poets throughout time have explored the human need to be understood, to be seen as we are. In writing an original "Paint Me Like I Am" poem, you will explore your own identity and how you want to be seen, understood, and portrayed. Your poem is modeled on James Thomas Fields’ stanza from his poem, "On a Portrait of Cromwell," and poet Nikki Giovanni’s modern poem, "Paint Me Like I Am."

Paint Me Like I Am

I know this—it is difficult to grow up
It always was
It always will be

I know this— nobody can tell you how to do it
You just make the same mistakes and
You just thrill to the same excitement

I know this—Life is a good idea

I think—it is illogical
to assume there is no other life in the Universe

I think the possibility of re-creating our-
selves is in our hands

I think—humans are not the only thinking beings
we just happen to be the only species
that we respect

It is our loss.

We need—to listen to those who are forming
We need—to hear the cry of those in pain
We need—to respect the fear and embrace the longing
of those who are new to the wilderness

I know—imagination is a good idea
I know—those forging forward must embrace

I know—humans will shrivel from emotional needs
before we die of starvation or dehydration
The body will take care of itself.

We need food for the soul

We need poetry…we deserve poetry
We owe it to ourselves to re-create ourselves
and find a different if not better way to live

Paint Me Hope Paint me Futuristic Paint Me Nikki
I’m a Poet

~ Nikki Giovanni

Writing Your "Paint Me Like I Am" Poem

Paint Me Like I Am, Template 1

Why don’t you paint me
Like I am?
______________ing and ________________ing
(verb ending in “ing”)               (verb ending in “ing”)

With __________________and ________________
(noun)                                     (noun)

With ________________________in my hands.
(abstract noun/idea)

Why don’t you paint me
Like I am?

Paint me as a ______________________________
(compare yourself to something/metaphor)

(describe the comparison)

Paint me ____________________.
(adjective OR verb)

Paint me ____________________.
(adjective OR verb)

Paint me ____________________.
(adjective OR verb)


Paint Me Like I Am, Template 2

Why don’t you paint me
Like I am?
Paint me __________________________,


Paint me with ________________________________

Paint me with ________________________________

And my _____________________________________.


Paint me ____________________________________.

Paint me with ________________________________



Paint me somewhere __________________________.

Somewhere where ____________________________


With _______________________________________.


Paint me without my ___________________________.

Paint me without my ___________________________.

Paint me without my ___________________________.

Paint me so my ______________________ won’t show.


Paint me with _________________ in my hands

And __________________ in my _________________.


Can you see the face telling you paint me ___________,

Paint me with ___________________, but most of all

Paint me ____________________.



Why don’t you
Paint me like I am?
Laughing and dancing
With my loving friends
And family in my heart
With happiness,
Love, and compassion
In my hands

Paint me as a red rose
Soft and generous,
Yet powerful and strong
Paint me as a vibrant,
Dazzling sun
A warm, welcoming
Light that can make
People happy
When they need it most

Why don’t you
Paint me like I am?
Covered in flour,
Baking and cooking
Making birthday cakes
And home-cooked meals

Paint me like a beach
With a few shady spots
But mostly open and free
Paint me without tears
Paint me without sorrow
And paint me fearless,
Truthful and real.

Why don’t you
Paint me like I am?
Pretty and graceful
As I move through life
Paint me with friendships
Show my adventurous side
With your pastels
Let your brush strokes
Show me as the Niagara Falls
Formidable, a beautiful sight to see

Why don’t you
Paint me like I am?
Good-natured and sociable
In my interactions
Paint me delightful and delighted
A compassionate animal-lover,
A creative jewelry-maker
With the heart of an athlete
And the mind of a scholar

Open your eyes
Observe closely
And paint me
Like I am

~ Julia

Paint Me Like I Am

Why don’t you paint me
Like I am?
Paint me happy,
Laughing, running down a path of happiness
Paint me with a smile on my face.

Paint me with long wavy black hair
And my rosy cheeks.
Paint me sunflowers, red and white roses.
Paint me with bears, rabbits and baby deer
In my arms, dancing around me. Paint me somewhere wonderful
Somewhere where there’s sunshine and
A light blue sky
With butterflies floating
Around that lovely sky.

Paint me without my sadness.
Paint me without my sorrow.
Paint me without my tears.
Paint me so my pain won’t show.

Can’t you see the face telling you paint me happy,
Paint me with life, but most of all
Paint me free.

~ Delia Garcia

Paint Me Like I Am

Why don’t you paint me like I am?
Singing, dancing, laughing
Twirling in the air with clouds beneath my feet
Why don’t you paint me like I am?
Paint me fair with hair the color of the sun
And shooting the orange ball with that amazing accuracy
Paint me overjoyed and loving
for my parents at home
Paint me balancing friends and family
And trying to be effective with both.
Paint me with that energy
When I receive recognition
For being a leader.
Paint me when I remember that I, Emma Bryan,
Am the proud daughter of Wayne and Jennifer
And the ravished sister of Weston
In Petaluma, California.
Paint me without a doubt
And the panic when I am afraid
Paint me without the pain and sorrow,
For I am stronger than that.
Can’t you see it in my eyes,
How some wish they could be as passionate as me?
Paint me focused
Paint me loved
Paint me stronger

~ Emma