Thursday, April 6, 2017

ARTSPEAK! Portraits poem "Paint-by-Number" + Spiritual Journey Thursday

Hello and Happy National Poetry Month! This will be a month of double-dipping, as not only will I be sharing with you day 6 of ARTSPEAK!: Portraits, my National Poetry Month poem-a-day project, during which I am looking, listening with my spirit ear, and asking these subject to share with me their secrets -- but it's also Spiritual Journey Thurday! For this month's installment, we are all writing about spring or new life or Easter. Be sure to visit Violet at Violet Nesdoly blog for Roundup! You'll find my comments below!

But first: be sure to check out the Kat's line of our 2017 Progressive Poem over at Kat's Whiskers. I'll be posting my line tomorrow when I host Poetry Friday Roundup! Hee-haw!!

Here are the ARTSPEAK! Portraits poems so far:

5. "Warning" after the bull by Lee Jung Seob
4. "I am" after The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas by George Catlin
3. "What If?" after Portrait of Camille Roulin by Vincent van Gogh
2. "The Lady Confesses" after Portrait of a Lady with Mask and Cherries by Benjamin Wilson
1. "Mona Lisa in Love" after Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Today I have another woman for you. I was really drawn to this face. I actually worked on this poem with students at Oakwood University during a session titled "Poetry Meets Picasso." I love teaching about how to write art poems -- and these students were amazing and inspiring! Here is a pic of the students selecting postcards to write about:
What a beautiful day! Thank you, Oakwood!

And here is what my own (colorful!) woman had to say:

- after "Portrait of a Woman" by Alexei von Jawlensky

My checks grow
strawberry fields,

my ears sprout
a pine forest.

You can hike

the chocolate ridge
of my nose,

then rest
on a bed of violets.

Before you go,
paddle out

in my red rowboat

Drop a hook
into my clear,

mountain pools.

Never lose sight
of your dreams. 

- Irene Latham
Readers, I tried several approaches to this poem. I was thinking about a poem I read at Oakwood University: "What the Mirror Said" by Lucille Clifton, about the geography of a body, extending that to the geography of a face. And then i found "paint-by-number," and somewhere, likely lurking, was a line from a favorite Jackson Browne song "The Pretender" -- "my paint-by-number dreams." AND I was also thinking about Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo," which ends with that unexpected command, "You must change your life." I knew I wanted to end with a command! So that's how THAT happened. :)

And now, switching gears: rebirth for Spiritual Journey Thursday! It's April. Easter is coming. We are all writing poems, watching words push up through the soil to become whatever they will become. That takes courage. And it's mysterious. And an act of faith.

If you don't have a copy of this
book, and would like one,
email me!
 irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com
I am giving away copies for NPM!
It reminds me of a poem that appears in my book THE SKY BETWEEN US:

We Begin Again

Redwoods rise
on all sides
as if born whole

and placed by a god
whose one decree
was silence.

The seed cannot
know its own greatness,
as we can’t foresee

love’s evolution,
only marvel
when it comes—

the seed transformed
to a giant
with foot-thick skin,

arms reaching
toward an ocean
it will never taste.

- Irene Latham

I wrote this poem after Paul and I visited Muir Woods, which I consider one of the most holy places I've ever visited. The conversations those trees were having! What a blessing just to walk and listen and BE -- all the while becoming something MORE than we were the moment before. May we all keep growing and reaching toward that ocean. xo



  1. "We can't foresee love's evolution" -- so true!

  2. I love that image of words pushing up through the soil to become whatever they will become. Yours are quite beautiful today. Lots of blooming going on.

  3. Enchanted with your lovely paint-by-number lady. Love the chocolate ridge of her nose. Muir Woods is so inspiring. No wonder it led you to this inspiration, "The seed cannot
    know its own greatness,
    . . .
    the seed transformed..."
    And so this is a season of transformation!

  4. These are gorgeous lines, Irene:
    "The seed cannot
    know its own greatness,
    as we can’t foresee

    love’s evolution,"

    I'm transported to that hushed cathedral of a redwood forest in your poem. It sounds wonderful.

    And your paint-by-number lady does look quite delectable. Love your take on this!

  5. Sigh. So much loveliness. I love this woman's advice at the end of her sharing her colorful face... x

  6. These are both beautiful poems. In the second I do love "The seed cannot
    know its own greatness".
    Your Artspeak project is amazing!

  7. I like the idea of a" geography of the body" stretching to the face, what a journey you took us on in so few words, lovely! This passage stays with me,
    "You can hike

    the chocolate ridge
    of my nose,"

    Muir woods are enchanting, if giants can be so . . . A giant tribute to those trees there via your poem!

  8. Stunning visuals alongside exquisite language. I loved this stanza,
    "The seed cannot
    know its own greatness,
    as we can’t foresee"
    On a recent retreat, my friend shared the theme song called "Seeds" by Kathy Mattea. Here's the link:
    I'm with you on Muir Woods - talk about a gift! Thanks for sharing your incredible gifts.

  9. Your words are hope and encouragement to my teacher-heart: "The seed cannot know its own greatness, as we can’t foresee love’s evolution, only marvel when it comes—" I am posting it near my desk. I agree, standing among the ancient redwoods evokes a sense of reverence much like I felt while walking among the marking stones in the Old Settlers Burial Yard in Lancaster, MA.


Your thoughts?