Friday, September 21, 2012

Tornado Poem

Happy Poetry Friday! Renee has Roundup at the ever-inspiring and above-and-beyond informational No Water River.

I am delighted to share today a poem I wrote for Scholastic's SCOPE magazine. It's about a tornado. Now those of you who live nearby know that our state was greatly affected by the tornado outbreak in April, 2011.

It was such a devastating time in our area that Birmingham Arts Journal, for which I serve as poetry editor, decided to dedicate an entire issue to "storms." After reading hundreds and hundreds of fantastic poems on the topic, I said aloud to more than one person that I didn't think I would ever write a tornado poem.

Ha! Little did I know that a few months later amazing editor Kristin Lewis would be contacting me with the idea of pairing a poem with an in-progress tornado survival story written by another amazing writer, Lauren Tarshis.

But I didn't hesitate. I thought, okay, this will be a challenge. And it was!

Here's the result:


The Tornado

By Irene Latham

The story comes grumbling
over the hill. It tumbles
hailstones and cracks tree-trunks.
It craves front-page news,

so it musters all speed
and muscle. It tears across
Main Street, steals shingles
and un-parks cars.

It whirls, whistles
screams and teems with twists
no one sees coming.
We huddle, hunch

brace ourselves for the end.
When sunshine arrives,
we unfold, emerge.
Our words echo

and soothe as we join
hands with our neighbors.
Together
we sift through rubble

to shape a new story.
It rises like hallelujah!
as a goldfinch gathers
thistle to rebuild its nest.




AND The great folks at Scholastic's SCOPE magazine even posted a dramatic reading of my poem! What a thrill! Thank you SO MUCH.

24 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! (Writing a poem about a tornado is far better than actually experiencing one.)

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  2. That you told from the tornado's POV unfortunately gives it even more power, doesn't it, Irene? Yet, the hope arrives with the goldfinch as the re-building begins. A good story. I grew up in Missouri, ever scared of tornadoes and almost was in one devastating one that destroyed my school in May one year (when I was in junior high). It was a terrible time last year, I know. Thanks for writing your kind of tornado poem!

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    1. As if a tornado needs more power... awful things, those. I'm glad you weren't at the school when the tornado hit! Thanks for stopping by, Linda!

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  3. Terrific personification of such a terrifying entity, Irene. And glad you ended it with a small golden flash of hope. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Dear Robyn, always, always a flash of hope. xo

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  4. I love the story frame you gave the poem, Irene. The stories of so many families are altered, affected by devastating storms. Reading the poem, I was struck by the plethora of verbs, but listening to the audio really showed how the verbs give the storm and the poem so much power. The image of the goldfinch rebuilding its nest is the perfect closing image.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Joyce! Leave it to a tornado to make us use those verbs... it was a tough poem for me to write.

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  5. I don't know what I like more--the tornado as a story or ending with the bird rebuilding its nest. Or maybe all the great words and sounds. I'm glad you wrote a tornado poem after all.

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    1. Thank you, Liz! It was a good 'never say never' lesson for me. And proof that if you set your mind to it, you can write about ANYTHING.

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  6. Wow you have told the whole story so powerfully and with so few words! I love it.

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    1. Thank you, Andromeda! One thing I am working on is LESS words. It's a challenge!

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  7. Wow, this is SO good. It brought tears to my eyes as it made me think of "my" disaster, an earthquake, and how the words of others and my own words have "echoed and soothed." Thank you.

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    1. Oh, yes, Ruth - lots of similarities in the experience, I imagine. Here's to echoing and soothing and remembering those not as fortunate. Thanks for stopping by! xo

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  8. "goldfinch gathers / thistle to rebuild its nest" - well, if that isn't a metaphor, I don't know what is! Great job, Irene - love this! It reminds me of a poem I wrote about a tornado that hit Connecticut back in the late '80s...brings back memories!

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    1. Matt, I'd love to read YOUR tornado poem! Thanks so much for stopping by.

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    1. Thank you, Jama... sorry there was no food in it. :)

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  10. Irene- I love the story and the poem. I'm headed over to hear the dramatic reading now! Wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, Linda -- I am SO THRILLED by the audio. Poems should be heard! I appreciate you stopping by and hope you are writing.

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  11. Hi, Irene. I love how this poem ends with a goldfinch -- a note of hope. Congratulations on the publication!

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  12. "It rises like hallelujah" is my new favorite phrase - it just says it all. And how surprised I was by the "tornado as a story" angle - so unique and exactly right! I'm glad you wrote the tornado poem, too.

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  13. What a story! I love this. Love you, sweet poet friend. Can't wait to see you.

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Your thoughts?