Friday, March 1, 2024

Moose in Winter

camellias from our yard!
 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup.

If you haven't had a chance, I invite you to read my Poetry from Daily Life column. Many thanks to David Harrison for including me!

Now, a reminder: I'd love to feature your poems in my public poetry project! Details here.

Also, Charles and I are grateful and excited about folks signing up for our Highlights Working Retreat for Poets June 23-26. Please join us!

Today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART is after a piece by Vollis Simpson.

 Thank you, Kay McGriff for telling me about Vollis! 

There's even a whirligig park in Wilson, North Carolina featuring Vollis' whirligigs. (Yes, I will be visiting.) 

And if you want to incorporate whirligigs into your STEAM day, check out this lesson plan!

In researching Vollis, I stumbled upon a publication I must get: The Folk Messenger! It's a benefit of membership to the Folk Art Society of America. Yes, please!

I was drawn to the moose in this whirligig, I think, because we don't have moose in these parts. Deer, yes. Lots of deer! But moose are SO HUGE! They definitely bring to mind places like Minnesota and Canada, the North Woods I've read about in so many Gary Paulsen books. Thanks so much for reading!



Moose in Winter

You'll know him by his crown of bone—
and how he enjoys being alone.

He plods across morning—cold, stark—
ripping tender strips of willow bark.

A king's feast! And when twilight falls
he beds against warm-snow walls.

Moon curtsies, and all the stars bellow.
(They rather like this majestic fellow.)

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 23, 2024

Wanted: YOUR POEMS!

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

I've got lots of exciting poetry things coming this spring. One of them is a public poetry project. Thanks to poetry friends Jay Brazeau and Joan Riordan for helping to keep this flame alive in my heart!

some pockets that need
poem-friends!
 This year I am in charge of the bulletin board at my local library for National Poetry Month. I've decided to focus on Poem in Your Pocket Day, and I'll be using a display of actual (mostly denim) pockets cut from thrift-store clothing. I'd like to fill those pockets with YOUR POEMS! Family-friendly poems that patrons of all ages can pull from the pockets on the bulletin board and take home to display or gift or ponder...or simply smile over! 

**If you'd like to contribute some printed poems to this project, that would be awesome! And I know that readers in Blount County, Alabama, will be enriched and entertained by your words. 

This is totally something you can hand-print or print on your at-home printer...could be bookmarks or index cards...any slip of paper that would fit in a pocket but stick out a little (for easy grabbing)! 

I'd suggest individual poems printed on paper at least 4 inches tall, but not wider than 3.5 inches. 

As for how many, I'm thinking 5-30 per poet? 

(This is my first time doing this, so I'm not sure how many patrons will snag poems. But the bulletin board will be up all month long, and there will be 15-20 pockets... I sure don't want to run out of poems! Any leftovers I will circulate at various conferences and poetry workshops I have scheduled this year.)

You can mail them to me by April 1, 2024 at PO Box 122 Oneonta, AL 35121. Alternatively, if you create a digital file and send me a PDF, I can print them for you!

... and I will certainly share pics of the completed project!

Questions? Please put them in comments or email me: irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com.


In other happy news,
Nine: A Book of Nonet Poems (Charlesbridge, illus. by Amy Huntington) was selected as a Mathical Honor Book! 

Y'all, this book came out during lockdown in 2020, and in the midst of a flurry of other releases, so I wasn't able to celebrate it properly. So this recognition feels especially sweet. So many congratulations to all the other book creators whose works were honored...and many thanks to the committee!

Also: My contribution is next-up in David Harrison's Poetry from Daily Life column. I'll post a link next week!

This week's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem is the third one this year about death. Earlier I posted We Bring Flowers: A Funeral Song and Mule Ringing the Doorbell in Heaven. And today I've got a memoriam poem! 

I kind of love thinking about my deceased loved ones, communing with them, bringing them into my daily life...my father, especially.

 Recently a friend asked me, "What's your favorite memory of your father?" And wow, I had a lot of answers to that question! But what stunned me was the question itself, and how I don't think anyone has ever asked me that. So I have really enjoyed wandering that particular memory-forest. 

So here's a poem, inspired by art created by Woodie Long.  I hope my father is up there reading this poem and that he is reassured that he is not and never will be forgotten.




For You (In Memoriam)

For you we
step outside,
greet steep March

wind. For you
we unspool
string and lift

kites. For you
we dash fast
and faster,

send blazes
of red silk
into blue

forever,
their bright tails
whip-wagging,

spinning—we
remember
you. We do.

- Irene Latham

p.s. This poem is a double tricube. xo

Friday, February 16, 2024

Pete the Cat!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup.

Oh my goodness, I had the best time with my mother and sister exploring northeast Alabama! One of the highlights was visiting Ft. Payne, home of Pete the Cat. (Ft. Payne is the original home of illustrator James Dean.) We visited all the Pete the Cat murals and his sidewalk star and took selfies and visited the shops...so much fun!



In other news, Charles and I will be at Highlights this summer! (June 23-26 -- perfect for educator-poets!) You asked, and we listened... this time we are offering a "Working Retreat," which means less instruction and more time to WRITE! We expect this to be super-community-building, and we'd love for you to join us! *Our focus will be on poetry collections, both solo and anthologies...which is a great fit because our first anthology comes out fall 2024, our second anthology comes out spring 2025, and we hope to have an announcement for you very soon about a new one.

Today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem is after a piece by Maine artist Earl Cunningham. So many thanks to Jan Annino for telling me about this artist! (Several others also offered artist suggestions in response to my latest Adventures in Writing newsletter...thank you, thank you! I'll be getting to them all eventually.)

I wrote a bunch of fragments that went in a bunch of different directions...kind of like the clouds in the art! And that thought is exactly how I landed on the poem I'm sharing below. 

Sometimes one doesn't know where one is going—in sailing or in writing—until you just... GO.



first sail of season
are those clouds sheep or wolves
too soon to tell

- Irene Latham

On the reading front, I've been catching up with ALA YMA winners that I hadn't yet read. One I want to mention and highly recommend: The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla, which won the Schneider Family Book Award (for MG). So much good stuff going on in this book! Prose, poetry, learning, adventure, healing, empowerment...I loved it. And I cried. Twice. xo

Friday, February 9, 2024

Bless Our Pets + a Tiger poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink for Roundup.

I've just gotten a sneak peek at Bless Our Pets: Poems of Gratitude for our Animal Friends edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Lita Judge (Eerdman's, coming April 16). 

I kind of love these posthumous projects, because they fill me with tenderness and make me feel connected to the deceased. In this case, that would be Lee Bennett Hopkins

I wish I could tell him in person how much I love his poem in the collection titled "My Old Dog." Here's to you, Lee! And to my old dogs: Sasha and Ruby—no longer with us on earth (hey, Lee, maybe you've met them??)—and Rosie, who, at age 5, isn't quite an old dog yet, but the sentiment still holds!

Rosie, age 5

Another favorite from the collection is "Dreaming of Savannah" by Kristine O'Connell George. As a life-long horse-lover, I often find myself dreaming of Cinnamon, Sugar, Rusty, Honey, Daisy Mae, and Starfire! Honey, most of all. Oh, sweet Honeysuckle Rose, our time together was too short, too short...

"Dreaming of Savannah" by Kristine O'Connell George,
illus. by Lita Judge; used with permission from the publisher.

Dreaming of Savannah

I dream of you in the morning—

  I hear a nicker, then a neigh.

  Apple? Carrot? Handful of hay?


I dream of you each afternoon—

  the velvet softness of your lips,

  your breath, warm upon my fingertips.


I dream of you late every night—

  glints of moonlight tangle your mane.

  We race across the star-strewn plain.


- Kristine O'Connell George


Other pets featured include: kitten, puppy, goldfish, gerbil, hamster, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, snake, mouse. Lovely poems by lovely poets. And the art!! I'm a huge fan of Lita Judge, and her work here is so heartwarming. (A favorite: the spread for "Pet Snake?" by Charles Ghigna. The expressions on those kids' faces!!) This is a sweet book to share with kids of all ages.

❤️


Red Heart

A classic red love heart emoji, used for expressions of love and roman...

And now for today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem! This one is after a piece by another Alabama folk artist: Thornton Dial. 

The piece I've selected features a tiger, which is a recurring theme in Dial's work. It's said that he meant the tiger as a symbol of survival in general, and specifically the struggle of the civil right movement in the United States. 

I of course had this in my mind while writing my poem! But what drew me most into the piece was the coexistence of an apex predator and that mad scattering of flowers. 

The piece feels dream-y to me, so I stepped (flew? grew?) into the dream. Thanks so much for reading!





What Tiger Dreams

Tiger dreams a field

Tiger dreams posies rising
from heat-bleached bones

Tiger dreams wings

Tiger speeds across bleakest night,
a garden growing in his wake

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 2, 2024

I am sky with a thousand faces (identity poem)

 

Florida flowers...what kind?
I don't know!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading for Roundup.

Y'all, it's February! I know many don't care for February, but it's my favorite month. And this (leap) year we get an extra day to be kind and tell people we love that we love them and give flowers and walk in the woods and eat chocolate and and and.... Woohoo!

Today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem is an identity poem. I have written quite a lot of identity poems over the years! No surprise, really, as poetry is often a place for self-discovery. And how much fun is it to play with those words "I am" ??

The art is by reclusive Alabama folk artist Sybil Gibson. I was immediately drawn to all those faces, and how fragile and dreamy they appear...and to the artist's struggle between wanting to be seen and wanting to NOT be seen. Thanks so much for reading!


I am sky with a thousand faces

I am a shoal of clouds

I swirl birds
and currents

I am not hiding

I am here,
waiting

I rise   I set    I dream

I am a squall
of stars

please look up

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 26, 2024

Florida poem

 

sunset at Sunset Point, Key Colony, FL
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Susan at Chicken Spaghetti for Roundup.

So many congratulations to this year's ALA YMA winners! I was glad to see poetry represented: Mascot by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell was named an American Indian Library Association Honor book; Kin: Rooted in Hope by Carole Bostone Weatherford was named a Coretta Scott King Honor book; Nearer My Freedom by Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge was included on the shortlist for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. (I haven't read this one yet, but soon!)

There may be other poetry titles that got awards...please add any others in comments!

Meanwhile, we're just back from a lovely time in the Florida Keys. No wonder I decided to write a Florida poem for this week's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART series. 

The folk artist I've chosen this week is Harold Newton,  a founding member of the Florida Highwaymen, a group of mostly male, mostly African American Florida landscape artists who sold paintings from the trunks of their cars during the late 1950s and early '60s. The sole female Florida Highwaymen was Mary Ann Carroll. I will likely feature her later in the year!

A few years ago during a visit to Ft. Pierce, FL, we were lucky enough to visit the A.E. Backus Museum, which features a beautiful collection of Florida Highwaymen art, mostly by A.E. Backus. (Museums like the Backus are my favorite kind of gallery...small, intimate, with knowledgeable, passionate docents!)

I chose to write this poem as a shadorma, a Spanish 6-line syllabic poem of 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllable lines respectively. ("Florida" is a Spanish word, so of course a shadorma!) 

I hope this poem brings some sunshine to those who have been brutalized by recent winter storms. Thanks so much for reading!



Florida

morning sky a ripe

cantaloupe

cracked open—

herons wade in the juicy

sweet shallows


- Irene Latham

Friday, January 19, 2024

Heaven Poem (with Mule!)

 

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit radiant Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge for Roundup.

I don't know what's going on with me...last week I wrote a Funeral Poem...and this week I've written a poem about Heaven! 

I do believe we can continue to be in relationship with our loved ones, even after they are dead. And I often call up on my loved ones (my father in particular)...but why these poems, right now? 

Perhaps it's the ArtSpeak: FOLK ART theme? Folk art isn't afraid of things like death and funerals and heaven. I love that!

The art for today's poem is by Buddy Snipes. Buddy was born 1943 in Macon County, Alabama, and he was known for fixing things. It's no wonder he began creating art assemblage pieces out of spare parts! I love this little blurb about him here. The piece featured is available for purchase at Main Street Gallery in Clayton, GA.

Another thing about this week's poem: it's written in a new-to-me form, called an Abracadabra. Basically it uses the spelling of the word Abracadabra, but takes out the "r"s in order to create a rhyme scheme for a 9-line poem. So the rhyme scheme here is abacadaba. (Perhaps you know from my book NINE: A Book of Nonets, I kind of have a thing for 9-line poems!)

I struggled a bit with this one...but I often struggle with rhyme! I wrote about ten last lines, but couldn't decide! So I asked son Eric to pick, and this is where we landed. Now that it's done, I feel rather pleased with the experience. Maybe I'll write another one sometime...maybe you'd like to write one, too?? I hope so! Meanwhile, thanks so much for reading!

Mule Ringing the Doorbell in Heaven


Hello, Hello, Mule brays.
We're hungry. We're beat.
Are we in the right place?
Gate swings wide,
sets sky ablaze.
Welcome, the angels sing,
to a world full of sunny days!
So Mule and his friend rest, eat—
no worries now; nothing but praise.

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 12, 2024

A Funeral Poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit terrific Tracey at Tangles and Tails for Roundup.

Will a poetry title win the Newbery this year? Here's a post that evaluates MY HEAD HAS A BELLYACHE by Chris Harris as a contender. (We'll find out at ALA Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 22, 8 am est!)

Today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem features work by Louisiana folk artist Clementine Hunter (1886-1988).  

I love Clementine's story...she didn't start painting until she was in her 50s! Before there was such a thing as a "pop up," she was doing just that kind of business by posting a sign by her front door advertising her art for sale (for 25 cents!). Now her art hangs in famous museums.

You can read more about Clementine in a picture book Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead, illus. by Shane W. Evans.

The poem is a variation on a triolet (one of my go-to forms...but I often like to switch up those repeating lines, at least a little bit!).



We Bring Flowers: A Funeral Song

We bring flowers to say goodbye—
Goodbye, dear one, why did you have to go?
For their beauty, for the way they perfume the sky—
we bring flowers to say goodbye.
Lilies sing when we can do nothing but cry,
roses soften the tidal wave of woe.
We bring flowers to say, Goodbye,
goodbye
—O dear one, why did you have to go?

- Irene Latham

Two books on my nightstand that may have influenced this poem:


Friday, January 5, 2024

2024 One Little Word: BEAUTY

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Marcie Flinchum Atkins for Roundup. Lucky me: I was the winner of Marcie's gorgeous haiku/poetry calendar! Here it is, happy in its new home. I love it so much!

Earlier this week I posted a quote from Joyce Sidman over at Smack Dab in the Middle about poetry's power to bring us epiphanies. Don't miss it...it's a good one!

This is my 17th year to choose One Little Word to guide and inspire my year. It's a spiritual practice I'm quite devoted to. 

My One Little Word list (so far):

2008 joy
2009 listen
2010 celebrate
2011 deeper
2012 fierce
2013 sky
2014 mystery
2015 wild
2016 delight
2017 abundance
2018 behold
2019 happy
2020 red
2021 bewilderment
2022 whimsy
2023 space

Last year I created a quilt out of blocks I made for each of the first fifteen years. Now I've got a new project going: DIY garden word bricks!




I'm excited about this year's word. "Beauty" has been on my shortlist many years. It was reading the passage on beauty from Consolations: the Solace, Nourishment and Underlying meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte that pushed it from bridesmaid to bride status. Here are some excerpts:

"Beauty is the harvest of presence"

"Beauty is an achieved state of both deep attention and self-forgetting"

"Beauty especially occurs in the meeting of time with the timeless"

"Beauty invites us, through entrancement, to that fearful frontier between what we think makes us; and what we think makes the world."

*So many thanks to joyous and wise poet-friend Jan Annino for recommending this book!

For this year's ArtSpeak theme, I've selected another many-times-contender: FOLK ART. 

I love folk art, outsider art, primitive art. Art created from everyday objects. Art created by those who create not from formal training, but from life. Art made for the sake of art, for fulfillment (not for money or fame).

And, a few years back, when my Poetic Forever Friend Charles Waters was living in New York City, he gifted me a postcard book from the American Folk Art Museum. It contains 30 postcards, so voila!, right away I've got a nice selection of art to choose from. 

Thank you, Charles!

I'll also be showcasing some southern folk artists, especially from my home state of Alabama...starting with Lois Wilson. Lois pulled items from the trash and turned them into art. I love that! (I have written a picture book manuscript about Lois. I hope to find a publisher for it someday!)

Here's a tricube for you after one of her joyous pieces created on a piece of wood. Many of her pieces are on wood...you can view her (2500!) pieces at the Fayette Museum of Art in Fayette, Alabama.


When I Ride my Bike in Spring

World spins by—
a happy
tide of green.

Wind blows me
open. I
smile so wide.

My feet pump,
my wheels whirr—
I'm alive!

- Irene Latham

Friday, December 29, 2023

One More Moon Poem as 2023 Comes to a Close

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle Kogan for the last Roundup of 2023.

Wow, I can't believe we are on the cusp of a brand new year! I've got black-eyed peas and greens ready to go. :)

I've enjoyed my ArtSpeak: LIGHT year so much... and my One Little Word "Space"...and the release of my MOON book...so it's no wonder this week's poem led me to this particular piece of art and these bittersweet words. 

Thanks so much for reading...see you in 2024!




When Moon Sweeps Sky Clean of Clouds

just past the trees
mountains fade to shadowed heaps
sky is streaked with stars so bright, so deep
you want to weep for all you cannot keep:
for light, for peace
                               for nights like these

- Irene Latham

Friday, December 22, 2023

Winter Solstice poem

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

Exciting news: the STEM issue of Tyger Tyger magazine is out, and it includes my poem "Math Lesson (from the Garden)." You can download a poster of the poem as well as teaching resources. So many thanks to editor Rachel Piercey and the whole Tyger Tyger team!

Today's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem was inspired by the winter solstice (obviously!) and a couple of other cool things:

1. Father Arthur Poulin, the artist-monk-priest from California whose work graces many a greeting card (and I want them ALL!!). His work speaks to my soul, so what a pleasure to write a poem after this piece.

2. David Harrison's most recent "Poetry in Daily Life" column on writing couplets. The article makes it seem so easy, especially during this time-challenged season, so...here's a couplet for you! Thanks for reading.


Winter Prayer

In this season of trees trimmed with frosty air,
thank you for star-flicker and sky-flare.

- Irene Latham

Friday, December 15, 2023

Winter Garden poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Janice at Salt City Verse for Roundup.


It's been quite a busy season round these parts, so I especially loved getting in the mail my Winter Poem Swap gift from Michelle Kogan. I am a huge fan of Michelle's art and poetry, so I knew the package would be full of delights...and it was! 

Michelle gifted me some watercolor pencils, which I have already been experimenting with (while on hold during a phone call! :) along with forest-y bookmarks and the most marvelous Moon gift:


Y'all, it's an accordion notebook! With a gorgeous moon! And the poem is one Michelle wrote by finding words in my book THE MUSEUM ON THE MOON. Isn't that so so special? I just want to hug it...and I have! So many thanks to Tabatha, our Poetry Swap Mama, and of course to my moon sister Michelle. 

Here's the poem:

Moon's Dream
for Irene

Rekindle Moon's
olive branch of Peace...
A wee sparkling gift
from a wee blue planet
A Moon wish for humanity.

—Michelle Kogan

--

This week's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem features the garden! And a triolet—which, as it turns out, is kind of my go-to form whenever I'm stuck. Only 8 lines to start with, and really, once you've written just two lines, you've written most of the poem! 

Here are links to some other triolets I've written:

Triolet for Planting Day

Tiger Talk Triolet

"Humility" from DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD

"Welcome, Earthlings!" (triolet that opens THE MUSEUM ON THE MOON)

I do, often, take liberties with the form. So I'd call today's poem a "variation on a triolet."

Here's why: The triolet calls for a repeat of the second line as the final line of the poem. That doesn't always suit my poetic aesthetic, because I often want the poem to go somewhere, not just back around. So...here I took the second line (all about winter root growth) and wrote a "parallel" final line all about spring growth.

*Let this be your reminder that forms are great, but if your poetic sensibilities lead you AWAY from the form, that's okay! Just call it a variation, and you're good to go!



Winter Garden

There's a garden under that snow.
Deep in cozy soil, roots stretch, unfurl.
Plants need privacy, did you know?
Yes, there's a garden under that snow.
Plants carry the light required to grow
while winter sky is all storm and swirl.
There a garden under that snow!
Come spring, watch green shoots pop, uncurl.

- Irene Latham

Thanks so much for reading! If you are in the Birmingham area, Charles Waters and I would love to see you Tuesday night, Dec. 19, 6 pm at Hoover Library where we are closing out the "Stories of Exile" series with a presentation about AFRICAN TOWN. See you there!



Friday, December 8, 2023

Butterfly Fireworks

 

when I think of the desert,
this experience comes to mind!
(my sons, circa 2004)
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit desert-poetry-goddess Patricia at Reverie for Roundup. 

Don't miss my post earlier this week at Smack Dab in the Middle where I catalog my Top 10 Highlights of 2023. So much goodness!

Also, Charles Water and I issued an invitation to poets to fill out this Getting to Know You questionnaire, which will help us better match poets to projects as we create new anthologies. So many have responded...thank you! We're so grateful to be part of such a joyful community. 

This week I also sent out my latest Adventures in Ink e-newsletter. Click here to access the "'Tis the Season for Peace" issue. (If you're not yet a subscriber, you can join the fun by clicking here.)

Today's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem features butterflies! Who doesn't love butterflies? As a Master Gardener and Alabama Master Naturalist in training, I am committed to providing safe havens for these lovelies by planting pollinator plants...which are beautiful in and of themselves, but when you think about all the GOOD they can do, it's kind of stunning. 

A few process-y things about writing this poem:

1. The title came first! (I do love a great metaphor.)

2. The butterflies depicted in the art are not colored like painted lady butterflies. But the yellow and orange background brought them to mind, so... (Just a reminder that you CAN use your imagination when writing ekphrastic poems. It needn't be a literal recreation of the art piece...and I would argue it shouldn't be.)

3. I wanted a lot of space and movement in these lines to mimic the butterflies' action among the goldenrod (in my imagination/memory). 

4. For the same reason, I wanted to use as little punctuation as possible.

5. A Google search of "words to describe fireworks" helped me replace first-drafty words with more vivid ones!

6. I'm still on the fence about whether I need to include "of light" after "dazzle." 

This has happened so many times this year... I talked about it in this post...and in the earlier poem, I chose to cut "of light." Here it feels more necessary. (?)

Thanks so much for reading.





Butterfly Fireworks



two painted ladies
are late summer 
              sparklers

as they sip,
              swoop,
   spin

a living dazzle of light
happy to set 
the whole goldenrod 
                  world
     a-sizzle

- Irene Latham

Friday, December 1, 2023

Ode to the Sun (poem)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit amazing Anastasia at Small Poems for Roundup.

You guys: just 4 more Poetry Fridays in 2023! 

I've done something I don't usually do: I've mapped out the final 4 ArtSpeak: Light pieces. Maybe this will free up my mind to decide on what my 2024 theme will be?? We shall see. 

Meanwhile, here is my poem. It actually started out much longer, but I realized there wasn't much fresh about the first few lines, so I performed that sometimes-painful but often-refreshing revision strategy of "cut the front porch." 

So often our first lines are just us writing the things that will get us to the really juicy stuff...and the poem immediately benefits when you forgo the porch and swing open the door.

Thanks so much for reading.



Ode to the Sun

You do not shout
when clouds invade sky's valley,
you are steady
as they unsheathe their silver arrows.
Afterwards you are first
to fold us unto your arms,
your voice a choir of birdsong
and solace,
your fingers erasing every tear.


- Irene Latham

Friday, November 24, 2023

If the Sun Had Shoes

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit radiant Ruth at no such thing as a godforsaken town for Roundup. She's invited us to share something GOOD. I'm all about that. So let me tell you: this week I've had so much fun! 

Early in the week I made my first-ever chocolate angel food cake....for my sister. Delish!

I did A LOT more cooking...and then our fellas came...and we feasted! 

We also played some family games, which always generates lots of laughter.

I crafted (Christmas ornaments!)

and gardened (33 wintercreeper plants)

and wrote (a new experimental YA!)

and revised (my adult novel).

So. Much. GOOD. 

And that got me thinking about shoes. I mean, all this going and doing requires a good pair of shoes. So, with a little help from Vincent van Gogh, I wrote this poem. Thanks so much for reading!




If the Sun Had Shoes

those shoes

would hold

a glow 

in their soles


make tracks

across each

radiant day


and illuminate

every midnight

hallway.


- Irene Latham

Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Last Poem (Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Special shout-out to all our poet-friends and educators at NCTE! Welcome to Roundup. Please add your link below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

First, be sure and check out the new weekly poetry column headed up by David Harrison! This edition of "Poetry from Daily Life" is written by guest-poet Ted Kooser, and it's a beauty that will remind you to play. (I needed that reminder this week!)

Second, I want to shout-out the latest from Geisel-Honor-Award-winning author/poet/friend Vikram Madan. It's a rhyming graphic novel. I know! Brilliant, right? Perfect for Dr. Seuss fans. It's called Zooni Tales, and it's sweet and fun and just perfect for beginning readers. 

Vikram takes us behind the scenes in this blog post. Rhyming AND illustrating...such talent! 

Also, here's a quick flip-through video of the book.  

So many thanks to Vikram for allowing me to share below the sea-spread, which I love! I just want to place this book in the hands of all the young readers in my life, and I hope you will, too. 💜


 

Finally: I've been thinking lately about the last poem in a collection of poems. 

Perhaps you, like me, upon picking up a collection of poems flip right to the last poem of the book. Last poems are often my favorite poems in a collection–sometimes the only poem I remember or truly care about. And, since in addition to being a reader, I am in the business of creating poetry collections (just like many of you!), that got me thinking: why? 

What should the last poem in a collection do? What purpose does it serve? What message or mood should it convey?

I want to say right up front that I'm sure there are as many answers to these questions as there are poets in the world. What we crave in collections is personal, subjective. But whatever my (and your!) personal preferences, I think we can all learn something from this discussion, yes?

So, for me, as a reader, I love last poems that are soft, tender, thoughtful. 

I like being left with a question, a wistfulness, a wonder. 

A fat moment, a place to linger.

Acceptance, hope, awe.

I don't want a conclusion, so much as a jumping-off place. 

I want a shift in my mind/heart to someplace else. 

I want a sense of mystery, yet something that also feels satisfying—like an acknowledgement of the journey we've just been on in reading the book, and some hint of what direction to go next. 

An end AND a beginning. 

What poetry collections offer this? Here are just a few from my personal shelves:


The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog: And Other How to Poems ends with "How to Pay Attention" by April Halprin Wayland.

A Maze Me: Poems for Girls by Naomi Shihab Nye ends with "Thoughts That Came in Floating—"

Cherry Moon: Little Poems for Big Ideas Mindful of Nature by Zaro Weil ends with "twilight"

Requiem: Poems of the Terazin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko ends with these ten words, untitled, which are embedded in my memory:

Blue sky

beyond

barbed wire.


I wish I were

sky.

--

Meanwhile, during my ArtSpeak: Harlem Renaissance series, I wrote a poem titled "The Last Poem," which offer a poetic way of exploring this topic.

And now, this week's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem. I struggled a bit this week...couldn't settle on an art piece, and then when I did, I wanted to poem to accomplish SO MUCH, partly because I love this piece of art so much...and also because I mean it as a love poem to you and you and YOU! The poem gets its title from good ol' Walt Whitman. Thanks so much for reading.




Because You Contain Multitudes


I find in your face

enough space for everything—


triangles of mischief

spangles of awe


curves of questions

swerves of certainty


squares of yes

flares of no


and in your eyes

a thousand round skies, all aglow.

- Irene Latham