Friday, January 24, 2020

May Your Days Be Forever Red

me, Charles and Kat (at #NCTE2019)
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Kat at Kat's Whiskers for Roundup.

It's been a wintry week here in Alabama, but we've still managed to get out for our daily walks. I've been chipping away at my wip, and it's such slow-going... but yes, some rewarding moments along the way! I (finally) got the sewing machine out and accomplished a stack of mending... and I am working a new piece on my cello. Life is good!

Today I have for you another ArtSpeak: Red poem. This one's inspired by "Miss Mary Edwards" by William Hogarth. I do have a Miss Mary in my life -- though she is nothing like the Miss Mary pictured here! Do you know anyone who enjoys a "crimson life" like the person portrayed in the poem?


Miss Mary's Crimson Life

Mornings, a field
of poppies

Noon, a crush
of cranberries

Afternoons
           lazy
as strawberry jam

Evenings, a dream
-->
of cherries.

- Irene Latham

... and now that I'm looking again at the poem, I think I've got an alternate title to use if I pull this poem away from the art: "May Your Days Be Forever Red." (changing the subject heading now!)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Eat this (Apple) Poem!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit for Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup. In this addition of ArtSpeak: Red, I write after another piece by Vincent van Gogh. (I've written more poems after van Gogh pieces than any other single artist.) And it took me to apple harvest time, which is NOT in January! So... hello, September!



September

her cheeks apple-sweet,
round as morning

the world red with joy
borne of rain, dirt, sun

life perfumed, glossy –
go ahead, take a bite


- Irene Latham

Friday, January 10, 2020

Elizabeth Bishop: Poet AND Artist

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sally Murphy for Roundup. (Shout-out to all our Aussie poet-friends... keeping you in our hearts in the face of those devastating fires.)

This has been a whirlwind of a week for me... I've been sick (Paul, too -- no fun), but a few wonderful things have been happening in my writing life, and I'm so grateful to be able to share them with you:

1. I turned in the final draft of THIS POEM IS A NEST, a collection of one big (nest) poem and 160 (!) (short) poems found inside coming from Wordsong later this year. Now it's with the copyeditor, and also with illustrator Johanna Wright, who will no doubt make it even more magical!

2. Charles Waters and I were interviewed by Time for Kids magazine for a feature they are doing that will include our book DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini (coming in just 3 1/2 weeks from Lerner!).

3. Amy Huntington, amazing illustrator for my NINE: A BOOK OF NONETS stopped by to answer some prompts and share some sneak peek illustrations from the book (coming from Charlesbridge 6-9-2020). (Yes! Nine is my favorite number!)

4. THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO, my book with Karim Shamsi-Basha and Yuko Shimizu (coming from Penguin 4-14-2020) got its first review, and it's a STAR from Kirkus (Hooray!):  “Based on a true story, this picture book is distinctive for its engaging narrative and impeccable illustrations . . . A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity.” –Kirkusstarred review

5. My latest book deal with Charles Waters was announced!

... and in my personal life, Paul and I have just booked a trip for next month to Phoenix-Scottsdale-Sedona-Grand Canyon. The desert, in winter! (Surely we will be feeling better by then!)


So. What does this all have to do with Poetry Friday and Elizabeth Bishop? Everything! I have long admired Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," but I did not know until last week when I made my plea for "red" art that she was also an artist. Thank you, Jan Annino! And that got me thinking about those in our community who identify as poets AND artists, of which there are several! So this week's ARTSPEAK! Red poem is after Elizabeth Bishop's painting "Red Flowers on Black." (The flower is called "devil's paintbrush.")




-->
Devil in the Night

Devil paints with a red paintbrush –
says, hurry hurry rush rush rush

Devil sings a shrill high note
says, give up, give in, there is no hope!

But Night knows all we have is time –
slow and steady is how the moon climbs.

Night breathes. . . hear the hush?
Night paints with a faith-filled brush.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Brought to you by the Number NINE -- and children's book illustrator Amy Huntington

Happy January 9! What's special about today? Well, it's the first 9 of the new year... and this year 9 is my favorite favorite number!
Why, you ask? Well... because of the new book I have coming June 9, 2020 from Charlesbridge called NINE: A BOOK OF NONET POEMS with illustrations by Amy Huntington.

Friends: these illustrations are extra-special because they tell a story. Yes, Amy added a whole amazing narrative to my collection of poems! I'm so grateful to Amy and to our ultra-creative editor Karen Boss for turning my collection of poems into a 9-inch x 9-inch (yes, even the book's trim size celebrates the number 9!) Number Nine Extravaganza!

To introduce the book, I've invited Amy Huntington to respond to a few of my favorite prompts. You may know Amy's work from some of her other projects, like one of my favorites: Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers Market (words by Michelle Schaub) Charlesbridge, 2017. Also coming in 2020, Monsters Like Us (Beaming Books). And more books are in the pipeline... Amy is a busy creator! Which makes me especially grateful she's here today. Friends, please welcome children's book illustrator Amy Huntington!


The difficult:

sketch of girl
that became Tisa
in NINE: A Book
of Nonets
AH: Toward the end of 2018, I received a batch of gorgeous poems from Charlesbridge Publishing. Irene’s “nonet” poems. Each one different from the next, but all connected by one thing, a numeral, a digit - the number “nine.” My job as the illustrator was to weave a story through the collection…with pictures. Whaaaat? How was I going to do this? From the poem about a cat’s nine lives, the ninth president, Apollo 9, the Little Rock Nine, to a nine-banded armadillo? Eighteen in all. But ha ha! I love a challenge!

I began as I always do…with some characters. This little girl I had developed for an earlier project but never used. She was pinned above my drawing table, asking to be considered. (It looks like she is holding a loaf of bread here. Nope, it’s supposed to be a rock, but that’s another story.)

The delicious:

AH: My girl needed a friend, and she soon had one. So then it became a game of introducing each poem through the characters day, and fiddling with the chronology of poems to reflect that passage of time. Because I love to use animals, the cat and armadillo are featured characters as well. Who doesn’t love an armadillo!

art by Amy  Huntington


And now that I have a cast of characters, what medium(s) should I use for the final art? In this case I chose gouache, colored pencil and a bit of digital. I love playing around with paints, collage, drawing etc, until I find the perfect combination for the final art. The process is always delicious! This is one of my favorite spreads. Each character was painted separately and plunked onto the field with Photoshop.

art from "Play Ball!" spread


The unexpected:

AH: There are always some spreads that I know will demand a bit more thought/research/planning. I was sort of putting off doing “Beethoven’s Ninth”. It’s not just a simple quartet. There are LOTS of musicians. But I love how this painting turned out!

art from "Beethoven's Ninth" spread

Something else unexpected? I got to do endpapers!!!

endpaper art by Amy Huntington


Thank you Irene for giving me this rich assortment of beautiful nonets to illustrate!

Thank you, Amy, for making this book a beautiful love song to the number 9, and the age 9 and all the many (many!) fun sets of nine found on every spread. Mwah!

Monday, January 6, 2020

3 Words for #CYBILS Elementary Nonfiction Finalists

I'm delighted to be serving this year as a CYBILS judge in the Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction categories... and oh what lovely finalists the panel has selected! Today I offer you 3 words (that are not included in the book's title) that come to my mind after reading most of the Elementary category finalists. (One title I haven't yet received... more on this one as soon as I've seen it!) Meanwhile, read these titles! You'll be glad you did.

Don't know yet. :)

Ice. Journey. Hope.

Accurate. Accessible. Birth.

Change. Light. Hope.

Surprises. Analogies. Variety.

Danger. Heroes. Bravery.

Sax. Bebop. Passion.

Friday, January 3, 2020

A Red Poem to Start the New Year

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol's Corner for Roundup.

This year I am showering myself with compassion. One concrete way I am doing this is by transforming my annual National Poetry Month  ARTSPEAK! project from a poem-a-day activity during April to a weekly installment on the blog. Today mark's the first poem! As you can see, I selected "red" as my theme. That evolved out of my choice of "red" as my One Little Word for 2020. Read more about why I chose "red" in this post. I'm curious to know your thoughts and impressions about the color red, and also if you have any favorite art pieces that feature red (and after which I might possible write poems!). Please share in comments!

And now, here's a red poem, inspired by the badge art for the series: "L'Atelier"(the studio) by Henri Matisse. I immediately thought: that's what it must look like inside my brain!



A Dream of Red

Inside my head
the walls are red –


paint drips, slips.

Projects unravel
for lack of thread.

Much remains
unformed,
unsaid.

Yet poems float
in this sea of red –

here I do what I want.

I build a boat,
mend a coat.

I spread red on toast
and eat it in bed.

(Strawberry dreams
ahead!)

The walls are red
inside my head.


- Irene Latham

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

One Little Word for 2020

Happy 2020! For the past dozen years, I have selected One Little Word to serve as my guide and inspiration for the year. Here's a list of words so far:

2008 joy
2016 delight 
2017 abundance
2018 behold
2019 happy

... and for 2020 I've selected



Why red?

I'm not entirely sure! (I've always been a "purple" girl.) I hope to discover the whys during this year of "red."


Here's what I've learned so far:

Red is an emotionally intense color, and it has many broad, contradictory meanings --- anger, fear, birth, passion, energy, love, danger, violence, aggression, ambition, determination, confidence, humanity, death... it's complicated!

Red is attention-getting, which is why it's the color of fire trucks and stop signs.

Hester Prynne wore a red letter A on her chest.

Editors use red pencils/ink.

Tiger Woods always wears a red shirt on Sundays.

Red fruits like strawberry, watermelon, tomato are favorites of mine. Here's a list of 273 things in nature that are red.

Ryan Hodnett [CC BY-SA 4.0
(https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Who doesn't love a (male) cardinal? (I love the females, too, of course -- see this mama cardinal poem!)

Red letter days are the best days.

When we were expecting our second child, we painted his room red on the bottom and yellow on the top with a cute transportation-themed wallpaper border in between. A few months into his life I read an article that suggested red bedroom walls might increase violence and anger in children, so we promptly repainted his room blue!

January's birthstone garnet is red.

An introvert, I generally stay away from red in clothing, but I've noticed it creeping into my wardrobe more often in recent years.

In Russia, the word "red" means "beautiful."

In Asia, red symbolizes good luck.

In North American stock markets, red means a drop in value.

... so who knows where red will take me this year??

To read about others' selections for their One Little Word, be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Spiritual Journey Thursday roundup!

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Last Poem for 2019

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday on this, the last Poetry Friday of 2019! Be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for Roundup.

I offer you this poem by Marge Piercy:

The birthday of the world

On the birthday of the world
I begin to contemplate
what I have done and left
undone, but this year
not so much rebuilding

of my perennially damaged
psyche, shoring up eroding
friendships, digging out
stumps of old resentments
that refuse to rot on their own.

No, this year I want to call
myself to task for what
I have done and not done
for peace. How much have
I dared in opposition?

How much have I put

on the line for freedom?


read the rest here

... and this poem, from ARTSPEAK:


The Last Poem

is all knees
and flat feet

it keeps forgetting
the routine

yet it wears a hat:
see me?

it lifts its arms:
love me!

it squinches its eyes,
looks past lens,
   mirror
               stage

dances us
across the page.

- Irene Latham

Happy New Year!!! Here's to lots of love and adventure in 2020. :)

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project FINAL POST: WINDOW poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup.

This is the final entry in my 180-post series! You can check out all the entries here. It's been a bit brutal, and some weeks I wasn't sure I wanted to go on... but I did, and here we are. Hooray!!!

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.

WINDOW



Window

A poem is a sheet of glass
Tucked between wood frames.
Your world will be transformed
When you peek through the panes.

Lift the sash just a crack,
Catch the scented words.
Breathe deep the new syllables
This moment has stirred.

Now find yourself in the glass,
trace reflection with a finger –
These lines are made to shift and turn,
Embrace the ones that linger.

Work it till it sparkles --
Even clouded glass can shine.
Discover the beauty that happens
When streak and light entwine.

Take it line by line,
Be transparent with your heart.
A poem isn’t choosy –
sunlight or moonbeam: start.

- Irene Latham


Happy Holidays, and thank you so much for reading.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: WIDOW

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann. Hooray, we are coming to the close, which means I have written nearly 180 entries in this project -- proof that "little by little" is how to do this whole writing thing. :)

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.

-->
WIDOW

My experience with widows has been as an adult. The one who provided the first and biggest impact on me was my mother-in-law. When her husband died suddenly at age 59, she was thrust into the widow role instantly and completely. She lived another 25 years, alone, and it seemed to suit her. She loved Dan, and missed him, but she also loved being on her own, making choices just for herself, not having to answer to or consider anyone else. I get it! So she was the first person to show me that even after a spouse dies, life carries on. One can experience a joyful, fulfilling life, even without a partner. These days I meet regularly with a group in which all are widows – except me. In this group I have discovered how differently different people handle widowhood. Regardless of how they experience it, the overwhelming reality is that life goes on, and it can be whatever you want it to be – which is a lesson for all of us, at any time in our lives. I'm grateful to these women for sharing their (rich, full, tender, funny, sometimes-dating) lives with me!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: WASHING MACHINE


For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.

WASHING MACHINE

our family -- with Ken II holding Goldie
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear “washing machine” is “dryer.” That's because the first tragedy in my life involved a clothes dryer. We were living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and we had a yellow/orange tabby kitty we named Goldie. We all adored Goldie's playfulness and adorable antics. But one day when my mother went to pull the clothes out of the dryer, she realized instantly that something awful had happened. Goldie must have climbed into the dryer, and no one knew. That loss impacted my life in multiple ways, not the least of which is how obsessively I have and always will check the contents of the dryer before turning in on.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: VIETNAM

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.

VIETNAM

This is a prompt (like “typewriter”) that indicates Patty Dann is in the generation just before me. It's not a word that brings up a lot of personal history for me. My grandfather was a WWII vet. My father was born during the years included in the draft, but was not called up. He was an only child, so I've no uncles or any relatives from his side of the family who served. I do know my mother's one brother was career Navy, but I'm not sure where he was during the Vietnam war. Anyhow, my ideas about Vietnam have been largely influenced by the movies and Broadway. Movies like PLATOON and RAMBO (which my father LOVED, and which I remember seeing with him in the theater) introduced me to the brutality of war. 

Later, FORREST GUMP and MISS SAIGON made me feel anger, grief, love for all involved. It's one of those complicated things I'm pretty sure I don't even come close to understanding. And after reading LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME by James W. Loewen, I realize my confusion is largely related to the (lack of) education I got about Vietnam. Probably the Vietnam-related thing most dear to me THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien. I've just found the Bryan Cranston audio version and will be listening to it in the coming days. 

While I do not enjoy violence (and close my eyes during much of PLATOON and RAMBO and any other war movie), I am also utterly fascinated by the emotions of war, how it affects a person. It really brings a person to the heart of what matters most to them, and I think I crave that kind of self-knowledge. Maybe that's why my next middle grade novel is a “war” book – lots there waiting to be discovered...

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: WAR

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.

WAR 

For whatever reasons, I love reading about war. It's the EMOTIONS of war that get me... when the stakes are so high, the world so chaotic, it seems to put a person right into the heart of who they are and what's important to them.

My next middle grade novel (coming 2021) is set during a war. And here is a nonet (the first nonet I ever wrote!) about war, originally published 2012 here at Live Your Poem:

Al Tafar, Iraq, 2004

By winter the war feasted on fear:
It chewed through dusty, low-slung hills,
gobbled apricot orchards,
rubbed its ribs against scrub.
Eyes, red and searing,
it was patient,
not picky;
wanted
more.

-Irene Latham

Here is a post about one of my favorite LBH poetry anthologies for children -- also about war. Also, one of my 2020 releases THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO is set in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war... and I don't think I'm done yet writing about war. We'll see what happens next!

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: UMBRELLA poem for Poetry Friday

book I'd like to give to
each and every one of you!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Liz Steinglass for Roundup. December is certainly full of the hustlebustle, isn't it? I love this month's book lists and Twitter haiku and Christmas music and greeting cards and gatherings and year-end wrap-ups...

I myself put out a new edition of Irene's Adventures in Ink e-newsletter (The Happy Report!) which includes 5 Unexpected Things I've Learned in a Decade as a Children's Book Creator... and I've been clearing the nightstand to make way for the Christmas load that sure to come my way from loved ones who know my particular habits and passions... and I've played two holiday concerts (one with a community orchestra, another with a small group of cellists) and will play another concert tomorrow with my cello choir... and I've been working furiously on a new historical fiction project that has so many moving parts that my mind is churning 24/7!
And it's all good -- wonderful, in fact. Because today for my Butterfly Hours project (which is fast coming to an end), I wrote a poem in the voice of an umbrella. Read on!

 For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.

Dykes Family in Thailand
I often share during school visits this picture of my family of origin and wee me with the pink pants, purple shirt, and yellow umbrella. Only, we didn't call it an umbrella when we were in Thailand. We called it a parasol.




Umbrella's Complaint

My human calls
me parasol

but I don't like that name
at all –

it's too sunny,
                too sweet.

Give me wind,
give me sleet!

Call me umbrella

and if you're a storm,
I can't wait for us to meet!


- Irene Latham

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: TYPEWRITER

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.


TYPEWRITER

a favorite children's book
that includes a typewriter
My experience with a typewriter is limited to my high school typing class. If there was a typewriter in my house growing up, I don't recall it. So I don't have any romanticized memories about typewriters.

The high school typing class was one of those offering deemed “practical,” so I took it. (Pre-internet, of course!) And you know, I've never been sorry. I got my job at Walt Disney World (Travel Company) because of my typing
my favorite movie
that features
a typewriter
skills. With the onset of word processing programs, others of my generation had to acquire typing skills... but I already had them! I've always been grateful for my typing speed when I'm working on a story, and my brain moves so so fast – far faster than my hand can do and still be legible... but even with errors, I can generally interpret my typing, even when that typing has been achieved with my eyes closed (which is often the way I type when I am drafting!).

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: TROPHY

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.

TROPHY

My sister was a pageant queen and collected LOTS of trophies. I wasn't, and didn't, although a few did come into my life. I received a few for school performance, and once, when I joined my sister for a pageant, I brought home a runner-up trophy along with a tiara. I don't really remember getting the trophy, but I do remember the pageant. We were required to compete in 3 different sections, so my mom created 3 different outfits for me. One was a royal blue pant suit. Another was a lavender church dress to wear while I played a piece on the piano (Homecoming by Hagood Hardy, which I got caught in the middle of, and couldn't find my way out for a minute! I don't think the audience noticed, but I sure did!). And of course there was a pageant dress. Mine was a soft pink with a hoop skirt – more like an antebellum costume than a glitzy pageant dress. But then I've always been a bit more homespun than glitz...