Friday, April 3, 2020

A HATFUL OF DRAGONS... and a Dash of Hope

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup.

Also, check out the roundup of National Poetry Month goodness at Jama's Alphabet Soup. As always, there's a ton of creativity going on in this community of poets... take that covid-19!

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Vikram Madan to respond to three simple prompts as they relate to his brand-new book A HATFUL OF DRAGONS, from Boyds Mills and Kane, which he both wrote and illustrated. Vikram and I were to be on the Poetry Roundup panel together at Texas Library Association, and I am so sorry that didn't happen! But it makes me extra-glad to have him for a visit here, at Live Your Poem. Take it away, Vikram!


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The delicious:

VM: Although ‘A Hatful of Dragons’ is primarily a book of funny poems, the illustrations accompanying the poems are vital to the humor. I am a visual person (my ‘day job’ is ‘visual artist’!) and I often conceive of poems as a visual whole - with words and images intertwining and playing off each other. When Rebecca Davis, my editor, distilled my raw manuscript into a more defined collection, she was drawn to the handful of poems that had linkages to each other. As we refined the book further, I found this a delicious area to explore: could I find ways to visually cross-connect the poems in unexpected ways, so as to enhance both the humor and the reading experience? I hope that attentive readers will have a delightful time discovering how recurring characters and visual narratives cross-connect the poems. (For example, can you find the characters from Page 56 on Page 38?)

The difficult:

VM: I initially thought illustrating the book would be a breeze – just a matter of turning rough sketches into finished art. Boy was I wrong!
My first set of illustrations ended up ‘too tight’ – I had the art-equivalent of stage-fright (this being my first traditionally published book) and overthought everything, making the resulting artwork look rigid and lifeless. It took gentle prodding from my editors to help me loosen up and breathe life into the drawings.


Many times my art just had to ‘grow up’ to meet the ‘high expectations’. Other times I found myself iterating on possibilities trying to find the right look. For example here are eight (spot-the-differences!) layouts I created for the back cover (all of which were eventually rejected for being ‘too busy’):



In general I ended up working on the art far more than I expected to. That said, it was a fabulous learning experience and my editors were wonderfully patient as I found my way.

The unexpected:

VM: When I am writing rhyming poetry, I focus a lot on rhythm, rhyme, beat, scansion, and syllable count. What I did not expect at all was that the poems in the book would end up being copy-edited. And the copy editors would (rightly) suggest corrections to my (colloquial) punctuation, grammar, word and phrase usage, etc. Some of the requested changes threw a wrench (or more accurately, an unwanted syllable or two) into my carefully constructed stanzas and I had to go back to redo parts of some poems. In the process I had to grudgingly accept that, as writers for kids who are just learning to read, we have a responsibility to demonstrate the correct use of language, and hold ourselves to the higher standard, even if it makes our own jobs a little harder.

Anything else:

VM: I’ve been amazed at my editors’ attention to detail. For example, my illustration for a poem titled ‘Time Machine’ had a subtle reference to the movie ‘Back To The Future’. I didn’t think anyone would notice it – but sure enough my editors spotted the ‘anomaly’! With their blessing that ‘easter-egg’ is still in the book – look for it on page 48! :)


***YAY! I found the Back to The Future 'easter-egg.' :) Also, you can hear Vikram reading poems from the book in this video.
... and now for the latest installment of ArtSpeak: RED (my National Poetry Month project extended across the entire year!) ... I had hoped Vikram's book would inspire me to write something light, but that's not what happened. Sigh.


In the Midst of It All

yes, the hills
are burning

lake bleeds
into sky

birds wing away –
why? why? why?

still –
sun calls,
enfolds us
in her cloak –

no more you
no more me

WE

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- Irene Latham


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Thursday, April 2, 2020

(Choose Your Own) Progressive Poem is Here!

Hello and welcome to day 2 of this year's Progressive Poem! It's nice to continue this tradition in the midst of COVID19, isn't it?
So many thanks to Margaret for getting us organized and to Donna for getting us started!
In case you missed it, Donna surprised us all by going all Choose-Your-Own-Poem-Adventure and offering a choice of first lines:

"I feel the taste of green upon my toes, my toes"

or

"Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway"


Hmmm... I could imagine possibilities using either option, but ultimately I couldn't resist the language, color and movement in line 2! And since I enjoyed choosing so much, I decided I'd like to offer that option to Jone as well. So, here are your choices, Jone:

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway

as warm rain sprinkles my face
[or]
along the wiregrass path to the lake


Can't wait to see what you decide... and where it takes us the rest of the month. Happy National Poetry Month to all! xo

1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch, deowriter
Liz Steinglass
Buffy Silverman
6 Kay McGriff at https://kaymcgriff.edublogs.org/
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagel, hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
19 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
23 Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
28       
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan

Friday, March 27, 2020

Put on Your Red Shoes and... WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit beautiful Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup.

It's been a quiet-ish week around here, filled with a number of home improvement projects like putting in some azaleas, touching up the paint on the outdoor furniture, wiping away the pollen, wiping away the pollen, wiping away the pollen...
Today I am thrilled to welcome one of the dearest children's poets ever Amy Ludwig VanDerwater in celebration of her new book WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!, illus. by Ryan O'Rourke, published by Boyds Mills and Kane. Is there any more generous poet among us than AmyLV? She has such a wonderful way of speaking directly to children exactly on their level, so all her books are musts for me. And now, please welcome Amy, who was kind enough to come on over and respond to a few simple prompts as they relate to this latest project. Welcome, Amy!


The delicious: 
AmyLV: It is delicious to have a second book with the same illustrator. I adore Ryan O’Rourke’s art: his child expressions and textures and small details and bright colors and the way he plays with light on the page. Those pen and pencil butterflies and dragonflies delight me. I love that we have two books together, and I think of them as brother and sister books.


Beautiful Amy!
The difficult: 
AmyLV: This is the last book that my friend and mentor, Lee Bennett Hopkins, will ever see of mine. His death last August still surprises me, and I will always be grateful to him for his generosity. I hear Lee’s voice when I revise, and I hope I always will.

The unexpected:
AmyLV: Sometimes people share their favorite poem in a newly released book. I have read several such comments about Write! Write! Write!, and I have been tickled to find there are many different favorites. It is my hope that many people will find a poem in this book that matches their experience of writing.
  
Anything else:
AmyLV: Here is the book trailer I commissioned film student Patrick Krum to make. When I watch this, I imagine each of the book characters  jumping off the page!
  
Thank you, Amy! Want to know my favorite poem in the book? It's "The Pen."

The Pen
In a town, there is a house.
In the house, there is a room.

And in the room, there is a boy.
And in his hand, he holds a pen.

And in the pen swirl drops of ink.
They lead the boy to write and think.

And when he reads, the boy can see,
the pen has set his stories free.

It could be you.
It could be me.

(Pens are magical, you see.)

- Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
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Magical, indeed! And now... because Amy inspires me, I, too, will write about writing for my latest ArtSpeak! RED poem. Enjoy!



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When I write to you,
I put on my red shoes

Instead of I am fine,
I write:
                  I am divine!

Instead of I miss you,
I confess:
                  you are my bliss.

When you read my letter,
do you
                put on your red shoes, 
                                             too?

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 20, 2020

A (red) Poppy Poem for Comfort and Cheer

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for Roundup.

The way I deal with stress is kind of a closing-in -- think turtle or snail. Which means limiting screen time especially. However, when I have popped my head out, it's been wonderful to find so many people in our community offering virtual learning during this time when kids are at home. What a great way to give to the world!

I also found some good book-news: THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO, which I wrote with Karim Shamsi-Basha, illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, coming next month from Penguin has earned its 4th starred review! ★ ★ ★ 

We're delighted and hopeful this means many readers will discover Alaa and be inspired by his good works. Plus... cats! Lots and lots of cats. :)

And... DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD, which I wrote with Charles Waters, illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini, released last month from Lerner has been selected by Naomi Shihab Nye as the Young People's Poet Laureate Book Pick for April. YAY! What an honor... we couldn't be more encouraged, especially during these challenging times.

And now for the latest installment of ArtSpeak: RED.  Like many of us, I have been compelled to return to old comforts this past week... which led me to write after "Red Poppies" by Mary Cassatt. Enjoy!


Boy in Poppy Field

So many poppies
under the sun –
so many poppies,
but I only want one.

This tiny poppy
that's broken, drowsy –
this tiny trampled poppy
who's probably feeling
a little bit lousy.

I lift it from its web
of thick, dead grass.
I gaze into its wide, bright eye –
Little poppy, I promise you:
this, too, shall pass.

- Irene Latham


Friday, March 13, 2020

Another (red) Summer Poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme for Roundup.

This week has included the cancellation of 4 major book events I was so looking forward to! Strange times... wishing everyone health and good humor as we navigate these days.

The week also brought to our home this amazing sunrise:

And this wonderful bit of mail:
...my first finished copy of NINE
(which, yes, measures 9 in. x 9 in.!)

As for my ArtSpeak! Red project, I do have a new poem for you! I don't know why my brain is stuck on summer, but it most certainly is... read on!


Still Life with Summer

inside,
a plate of tomatoes
waits
for morning
to ripen

- Irene Latham


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Monday, March 9, 2020

"Nine Lives" poem from NINE: A Book of Nonet Poems, coming June 9!

Hello and Happy March 9. Did you know 9 is my favorite number? Want to know why?

Well. It's because I wrote this book called NINE: A Book of Nonet Poems, illus. by Amy Huntington, coming from Charlesbridge June 9.  This book is for 9 year olds and 99 year olds and anyone who remembers the wonder of age 9 or imagines the fun of age 9. Even the trim size of the book is a celebration of nine, as it measures 9 inches by 9 inches. Cool, huh?

If TLA happens as planned, I will be introducing the book to the world at Sylvia Vardell's Poetry Roundup, along with poets Vikram Madan (more on Vikram and his book A HATFUL OF DRAGON soon!), Carole Boston Weatherford, and others! I'm excited!

For today, I'd like to share the "Nine Lives" page. Didn't Amy do an amazing job?? And look: for the accountants among us... how many dogs do you see? How many "r"s in the last word of the poem? :)


Check back on the 9th of the coming months for more about this fun project. Thank you for reading!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Summer On My Mind

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sloth Reads for Roundup.

So... this week I spent wonderful hours with retired teachers in Blount County, Alabama and also with students at Mt. Laurel Elementary. This weekend I will be visiting Camden and Gee's Bend, as well as sharing MEET MISS FANCY Monroeville Literary Festival, in yes, Monroeville, Alabama, home of one Harper Lee! I'm excited!

Yes, I've got a new ArtSpeak: RED poem for you! This one has a summer theme, and that's probably because the weather in these parts has made a shift toward warm with high daily temps around 70 degrees. Bring on the flip flops. YAY!


Late June Afternoon

Curious clouds
are first
            to whisper

Blue waves
are first
            to sigh

Summer-drunk ducks
are first
            to splash

Red boats
are first
            to fly.

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- Irene Latham

Monday, March 2, 2020

David L. Harrison Puts His "Best Words Forward" in AFTER DARK

Today it's my pleasure to welcome David L. Harrison, in celebration of his latest book for kids AFTER DARK: Poems About Nocturnal Creatures, illustrations by Stephanie Laberis (Boyds Mills and Kane/WordSong). You may have seen something about this book already as part of the blog tour David and the publisher put together.


As my regular readers know, I have a tradition of giving book creators 4 simple prompts and asking them to respond specifically about the current project. I'm delighted to offer David's responses below. The italicized/bold bits are the bits that particularly resonate with me. Enjoy! 

The delicious:

DH: When we look at a body of water, we wonder what’s going on below the surface where we can’t see. In the same way, I look into the night and try to imagine what creatures are out and about and what they might be up to. Mysteries of the dark abound. For about as long as I can remember they have beckoned to me, stirred my imagination, made me need to know more. When I was six years old camping in a tent with my parents beside a mountain lake in Arizona, I lay on my cot in the dark electrified by the sounds of bears down the lane banging on metal trash cans after a free meal. In third grade I draped a sheet over our back yard clothesline, lighted it from within, and marveled at the insects and bats that appeared out of the dark to dart and swoop around me. Today when a raccoon runs across my roof at night or my headlights startle a possum scurrying off the road or I spot a fox hurry/sniffing along a lake bank, I immediately want to know the rest of their stories. Writing this book was the result of my curiosity. Unraveling each story, forming each poem, was, for me, delicious. 

The difficult:

DH: In Egypt 3,000 years ago, a fact was that bees came from the tears of the sun god Ra. What makes any book based on fact difficult is making sure the facts are as true as current knowledge allows. I come with two degrees in zoology, dozens of nonfiction books, and a lifetime of observing animals, but for a book like AFTER DARK, experts on specific animals were called upon to critique my work and offer additional facts and insights. In all there were fifteen authorities who looked at the writing or illustrations to help make sure we were getting it right. For these I was grateful. The difficulty in writing books for young readers isn’t the writing itself, although that’s important, or in finding ways to make the material appealing, although that’s important, too; it’s in making sure the writer provides readers with the truth. Children believe in us. They trust us. If we get it wrong, they get it wrong. It’s a responsibility the writer carries with him/her throughout a project like this one.

The unexpected:

DH: I’ve written about most of these animals in previous books and poems so in some ways it was like greeting old friends. But a writer always begins from scratch as though he is meeting his subjects for the first time. Facts DO change. I’ve written three published books about caves but I started a fourth one recently and approached it as though I knew nothing about my caves. In the case of AFTER DARK, I had two nice surprises during the time I spent preparing to write the book. One was about male porcupines. I didn’t realize how vocal they can be or how viciously they fight during the mating season to determine which male will win the right to approach a female. If there’s anything I’d rather not see coming toward me more than a porcupine, it would be an angry, lovesick porcupine spoiling for a fight! The other surprise was that armadillos can walk under water. Most of the armadillos I’ve seen were dead ones beside the highway. I hadn’t read about their mastery underwater and that was a fact I took pleasure in learning and passing along to my readers. 

Anything else:

DH: At times I fear that poetry attracts more poets than readers. Somehow we have to entice busy children to slow down long enough to read a poem, roll it around in their heads for a moment, and decide to like it -- even though they might rather be reading another book in an unending series of action figures. That’s why poets need to put our best words forward. We need to provide a varied menu, rich in imagery, quick to capture interest, seasoned with surprises and, yes, sometimes even humor. Kirkus has given AFTER DARK a good review, and my favorite part is this: “Twenty-one animals who live by the light of the moon get profiled in Harrison's poems, written in a variety of forms, some rhymed and most not. . . a fine collection of poetical odes to a nicely diverse group of nighttime fauna." Yay. Someone noticed!
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Thank you, David, so much for sharing yourself with us today. CONGRATULATIONS!! 

Friday, February 28, 2020

A Red Poem from CAST AWAY by Naomi Shihab Nye


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Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for Roundup. If I was really on it (as I'm sure many of you are), I'd have a Leap Day poem to share... as it is, I am just trying to keep my head above water this week, so I will just shout out my greetings to any Leap Day babies out there: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Also, so many thanks to Shelby County, Vestavia Hills and Hoover educators and students for giving me and Charles Waters such a lovely welcome this week! THANK YOU!!

Lucky me, I did have a chance to read CAST AWAY: Poems for our Time (from HarperCollins), the newest collection of poems from Naomi Shihab Nye. We learn in this collection that Naomi is a trash walker -- she collects bits of trash wherever she is in the world, and this collection is drawn from those adventures. You're going to love it! And... Naomi kindly gave me permission to share a (red) poem that caught my eye. I hope you enjoy this treasure... and I hope you pick up the book.

Red Ribbon on the Walk

After the bulldozers,
graders, noisy asphalt mixers,
lumber away for the tenth time,
trying to repave Sheridan Street,
poor old Sheridan
keeps cracking again
the minute it's new
due to the weight of buses
and ancient irrigation ditches
supposedly running beneath it,
I find you, long satiny red ribbon,
lying in the street.
Bulldozers dropping a red satin ribbon?
Seems unlikely.
Construction workers in helmets, orange vests...
leave a red ribbon?
Like the world we're in now.
Things that don't go together
confounding at every turn.
Sometimes we just have to close our eyes.
Think of something better.


- Naomi Shihab Nye


And now for my next ArtSpeak: RED poem! I decided to go with my main gal Mary Cassatt to the theater! Be sure and find the nosy fellow in the distance with the binoculars turned toward... YOU!



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Show Time

Heavy red curtain
soon to rise –
so many faces,
         so many eyes!

The play's the thing --
yes, those words are wise,
but they don't explain

why this moment
someone's watching you
watching me
watch the red curtain rise.

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 21, 2020

If thirst has a color (poem)

Me with some fabulous
future teachers at Troy University-Dothan.
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Cheriee at Library Matters for Roundup.

It's been a busy week for me with travels to Troy, AL and Dothan, AL... and next up Auburn, AL! Then next week Charles Waters comes to Alabama, and we have quite a few groups we'll be working with in addition to dashing down to Mobile, AL, for some research on our work-in-progress.

I'm taking it one day at a time, focusing on gratitude. It's an honor to be asked to share my life and stories with others... so far on this busy spring stretch, I've taken good care of myself. Looking forward, it helps to know that on several ventures I will have friends/loved ones joining me. Yay!

I offer you my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem below!




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if thirst has a color

its color is red

its sound,
a lion's roar

thirst is gritty
as sand between my toes

its scent
is burnt almonds

it tastes
blade-sharp

the moment
before water

whisper-drips
onto my lips

- Irene Latham
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Readers, have you ever been thirsty, so thirsty? What does it taste like to YOU? (That was the hardest sense for me to find in this poem!)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Warm Hearts, Cold Day (love poem for Valentine's Day)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Linda B. at TeacherDance for Roundup.

Happy Valentine's Day to all you Lovelies! I know some complain about commercialized Valentine's Day, but I feel like any excuse to show people you love them is a good day... so bring on the hearts and chocolates and flowers and poems!

And on the theme of love...

driving along Oak Creek Canyon
at sunset
Last week Paul and I visited Arizona, where we stayed in Sedona surrounded by red rocks... and rode around in a rented red car! We also took a peek at the Grand Canyon (south rim), which is indeed, grand. Beautiful and inspiring!

As part of latest Adventures in Ink e-newsletter giveaway, I received so many wonderful word suggestions for DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD! Thank you!! Giveaway winners are:

Cathy Hall
Denise Panter
Barbara Schneider

Congratulations!! 
And here are the words readers want to add to our DICTIONARY:



And yes, I wrote another ArtSpeak! RED poem this week. I decided to stick with the Valentine's theme, which led me to my Valentine among artists: Vincent van Gogh. Enjoy!



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Bedtime Love Song

I love you
like red blanket
loves bed

like walls
love the color
blue

like chair
loves a body's
weight –

no room
can hold
the love I feel
             for you.


- Irene Latham

... and here is a link to another Valentine's Day set of poems: one by Aileen Fisher, one by me. :)

Friday, February 7, 2020

When Red Pours Down the Mountain

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Laura Purdie Salas for Roundup.

Thanks to everyone for helping celebrate the release of DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD! What a fun time. :)
This has been a travel-week for me, so filled with wonderful new adventures... and also a new "red" poem. Yay! This one kind of went in a direction I wasn't expecting... and I am still not sure what it means! You can read more about the beautiful art on Google Arts & Culture.




When Red Pours Down the Mountain

Dreams seethe,

possibilities
slosh –

Red tumbles us high
into tomorrow.

With a gush,
rush –

whether we're ready
or not –

Red floods the sky.

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Other Side of Red

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone for Roundup.

Please be on the lookout for my newest poetry book with Charles Waters, DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes, which releases next Tuesday (Feb. 4)! If you'd like a chance to win a copy, be sure to subscribe to my "Adventures in Ink" newsletter (button on the left of this post!). I'll be publishing an issue on release day that will include a giveaway opportunity. :)

So, all the "red" poems so far have been happy-red... but red isn't all roses and cherries! In fact, I just read the poem "Phobia of Red" by Sharon Olds, in her new (beautiful) book ARIAS. Check it out!

Red has a dark side, for sure. My goal for this project is to explore all the sides of red, and hopefully discover things I haven't even thought of yet. :) Today's piece is one I found on Google Arts and Culture. Enjoy!


Because a Church is Its People

still, children
dance,
      twirl

even as sanctuary
      smolders,
mothers shiver

in streets lit
by the red-wet
       glow
-->
              of hate

- Irene Latham


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.")




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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!