Friday, February 26, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS "Snow Song" poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Karen Edmisten for Roundup. I'm away from my desk, having some birthday adventures... and possibly a new First to add to my 50 Firsts!

In case you missed it, here's my homemade-by-me everything-for-free book trailer for D-39: A ROBODOG'S JOURNEY! This was my first time to make a book trailer. I hope you like it! And I hope it makes you want to read the book. :)

My poem today uses rhyme and musical language to talk about snow. (Just 3 more weeks of winter poems. I am SO READY for spring!) Thank you so much for reading. 

Snow Song

when adagio
of snow

the meadow



to flush

from pianissimo

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 19, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS "February" poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town for Roundup.

First a special announcement for my Alabama friends: Karim and I will be signing THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO this Sunday at Little Professor Books in Homewood, 2-4 pm. Socially distanced and masked, of course... I'll be the one in the cat mask. :)

Today's Poetry Friday offering has a few connections I'd like to share. 

1. Unlike most of the world, I love February! I love it because it's short, and I love it because it's my birthday month. (Happy Birthday to my fellow February birthday Poetry Friday friends, of which I know there are quite a few: Ruth, Heidi, Laura, Kat, Tabatha!!!)

2. I wrote this one in a new-to-me form called a "viator." It has a refrain that appears in a particular spot in each stanza, and I kind of love it! You can learn more about the viator here. 

3. This piece of art by Vincent van Gogh is his "cover" of another artist's painting. What a great reminder that ALL artists imitate as they are learning!

4. You may recognize the words "bleak midwinter." They appear "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti. Also, Thomas Shelby and his compatriots repeat these words whenever they are facing death. (If you don't know who Thomas Shelby is, you should! Check out Peaky Blinders.)

5. One article I read said the colors of this painting have faded over time, so that now the ravens stand out more than they originally did... adding to the bleakness that I chose to write about. Perhaps my poem would have gone in a different direction were I writing it upon Vincent first completing it?

And now, the poem! Thanks so much for reading.


On bleak midwinter mornings
birds forage forgotten fields.
They dust and flutter,
dig and carry.

For birds, joy unfolds
on bleak midwinter mornings.
At this peaceful feast,
all are welcome.

Frost cannot keep
their chorus from rising
on bleak midwinter mornings.
Wings, too, symphony the sky.

Stop your stalling,
the birds call.
Marry yourself to fortune
on bleak midwinter mornings.

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 12, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS poem "Boating in Winter"

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Molly at Nix the comfort zone for Roundup.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a bit weary of winter. This week's poem shows that. Thanks so much for reading.

Boating in Winter

oars stir

wind ruffles
into puckers
     and lines

even sun's
     turns cold

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 5, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS "Digging in Winter" poem

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

It's been a wintry week, hasn't it? I feel like I've been digging myself out of piles of one kind or another... and so this poem! Thank you for reading.

Digging in Winter

sky bends
over backs
that have made
with winter

snow grips
as hoe's resolve

song stirs

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 29, 2021

"how to dress in winter" poem... and Caldecott-love!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jan at bookseedstudio for a song-full Roundup!

What a week! I've been floating ever since I got the call Sunday night about THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO being named a Caldecott Honor Book! So proud and happy for illustrator Yuko Shimizu... Karim Shamsi-Basha and I are simply delighted about this recognition and hope it means many more children will learn about the Alaa's (the Cat Man) good works. Such an inspiring story! Thanks to all who have sent me notes—it has meant so much to share this with all of you. Mwah! 

And for those who have asked, "What does it feel like for one of your books to win a major award?" My short answer is: IT IS SO MUCH FUN! :) :) :)

My ArtSpeak: Four Seasons poem today is inspired in part by a comment from Laura PS, who mentioned taking walks during winter being kind of a hassle, because you have to put on so many clothes!

Before I get to the poem, I want to address a question from Heidi about how I decide what to publish here on ye ol' blog, and where these poems may eventually land. 

Full disclosure: it is a dream of mine to publish a collection of art poems... but so far I have not been able to find a publisher willing to do so! Maybe someday! 

Meanwhile, I love that this collection (now at over 200 poems) lives online and is accessible to all readers for FREE. It's allowed me to connect with students and to teach art-poem workshops (which I LOVE to do) even without a book! In many ways, it's BETTER than a book, because it is available to all. 

Anyhow, I write these poems with no restraint and always always with great care, putting forth my best work at the time. IF a publisher someday wants to publish some poems (or if I decide to submit a group of them as a manuscript), I can always remove those individual poems from the blog and padlet. (Some poems I have revised significantly, and they are included in other manuscripts... but the revisions are such that they are two different poems now, so no need to remove those poems from my online collections.)

I hope that makes sense! Thank you,  Heidi, for the question. 

And now, this week's poem. Thank you for reading!

how to dress in winter

red velvet
in reverse—

layers of sweet

with rich, dense
            velvet red

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 22, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS "Walking in Winter" poem

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

After a busy start to 2021, finally, some space to breathe this week! 

I don't know about you, but this time of year I get a little clutter-crazy... as in I WANT TO CLEAN EVERYTHING OUT. So I've been moving files from my studio filing cabinet to the attic; sorting through the closet and discarding things I never wear; and throwing away the expired food in my pantry. 

I also LOVE to rearrange furniture and came thisclose to moving our piano from my studio to the family room—and then changed my mind. I called the piano tuner, and that's that. As soon as he comes, I am for sure not moving it. (It belongs in my studio. Truly.)

And, even in Alabama, it's still winter... here's my latest ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS offering. Thank you for reading!

Walking in Winter

Let's go walking
in the snow, in the snow—
let's discover where the deer go.

As our boots squeak
and our cheeks turn pink—
we'll soon forget about the cold
as the snowswept woods unfold.

Let's go walking
in the snow, in the snow—
let's listen for the bird-show.

Hear that song, soft and clear,
full of love for this time of year—
for snow so wet and deep
and some seeds buried beneath the heap?

Let's go walking
in the snow, in the snow—
our footsteps mapping happiness
                                     wherever we go.

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 15, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS "When Snow" poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup (where she's got more nestlings. Yay!).

It's been a catch-up kind of week for me, after the long vacation from the week before. I still don't feel all the way caught up, but there is satisfaction in checking more than half the things off the to-do list!

I'm excited to share with you today another winter snow poem—especially as parts of Alabama got snow this week. Here at the lake we got a new-to-me phenomenon: frozen fog. It looked like the trees were cast in suspended snow. Beautiful! Thank you for reading.

When Snow

when twilight falls
snow calls—

when child wiggles
snow giggles

when coat twirls
snow whirls

when horse prances
snow dances

when fire flurries
snow scurries

when moon shines
snow whines
                     come back

-Irene Latham

Friday, January 8, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS "One for Joy" winter poem

ceiling display at
Rooster in the Garden
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sylvia at Poetry for Children for her annual Sneak Peek of Children's Poetry books (one of my favorite posts of the year!)... and Roundup!

We've been enjoying the beach this week in Ft. Pierce, FL... and Heathcote Botanical Gardens and A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery and seafood and the beach... nice to escape the real world for a while. (Actually we've decided this IS the real world, and all that other madness is what we'll happily leave behind!)

In D-39: A ROBODOG'S JOURNEY news, I wrote a post over at Smack Dab in the Middle about my D-39 dystopia-robo-journey-hope playlist. So fun to pair story and music... I hope you'll check it out.

And you've got to read the beautiful, creative nests and nestlings written by these marvelous poets:

Margaret Simon: Reflections on the Teche
Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

What a fun, inspiring surprise! You poets make me want to write and create and love the world... thank you.

Today's ArtSpeak poem is inspired by Monet's magpie, and a little rhyme you have heard about magpies that begins "One for sorrow..." Well, I wanted to turn that upside down. Thank you so much for reading!

One for Joy

solitary magpie
dressed in shiny finery

makes a bride of winter—

each morning
renewing its vow

to love this decadent
wedding-cake world

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 1, 2021

New Word, New Season, New Year— and a Winter Love Poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Ruth at there is no such thing as a godforsaken town for Roundup.

How wonderful to find ourselves entering this brand-new year! I'm excited to share with you my 2021 One Little Word:

I've selected this word because I can easily get caught up in cleverness, which keeps me in my head, when the way I want to experience the world is through my senses, fully engaged in the awe and mystery each moment offers... (reminds me of a quote I love: "You're either in your life or in your head." You can't be in both at the same time!)

Plus I'm turning 50 this year, and that seems like a good time to question everything. Simply selecting this word feels like spiritual growth for me — it's not neatly packaged like some of my other One Little Words... I look forward to discovering all it will come to mean in my life during the coming months.

...and I have a new ArtSpeak theme, too! While I enjoyed my "red" color study very much, I wanted something a bit more structured this year, which brought me to this:

So I'll be exploring all four seasons in art — as I experience the season we're in. I'm excited, and also aware that this may present a grand challenge... I mean, how many fresh and original poems can one write about snow? Eep! This practice pushes and grows me every year, and I expect this year especially so. We shall see... 

You can read the poems here each Friday and also at my new ARTSPEAK: Four Seasons padlet gallery.

Today's poem is a love poem, and a dream poem, and a poem more for adults. Pink evening (or morning) light on snow is especially dreamy, isn't it?

A Dream of Winter

up the curved path
between steadfast trees

yellow house holds
a dazzle of winters

we fold ourselves
into sinking pink light
into each other

at first cold cool
soon warm warm

as the windows
swallow January's
shy sun

and winter
strips us bare
of all the glittering
meaningless things

and brings us
back to the miracle
of drift

- Irene Latham

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Merry Poetry Friday (Roundup is Here!)

 For my last ArtSpeak: RED poem of 2020—and for a Poetry Friday that falls on Christmas— I thought it would be fun to find a piece of Christmas art. 

... but then Richard Jones, who has been my muse in these last months of RED, posted a "Christmas Bird." How could I not write about it? 

How to Make Merry

just for today
in elves and fairies

eat too many

bury your
marry joy

(with or without

whether the day
ferries clouds
                or flowers

let love carry you
across all hours

- Irene Latham


Merry Christmas, and Happy Poetry Friday! Please leave your link below... see you in 2021!!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Friday, December 18, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Because Every Day is a Red-Letter Day"


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

Also, please see my "Friend Friday" guest post over at Kirby Larson's blog, about friends and friendship poems from THIS POEM IS A NEST.

My desk has been stacked this week, as editors close up shop before the holidays, so I will keep most post here short. 

I've been thinking about the days we celebrate, and how the work of a poet is to be mindful of the small ordinary miracles, too... and also about how challenging the holidays can be for many of us. What emerged is this poem! 

Another shout-out to Richard Jones for sharing his art and welcoming these poems... just  one more ArtSpeak: RED poem to write, and I will post it here next week when I host a Very Merry Poetry Friday Christmas Roundup. :) Thank you for reading!

Because Every Day is a Red-Letter Day

wake up
                   wake up

a new day is here

time to wiggle  wander
                   wonder  wag

chew through the blues

new day
                    new you

- Irene Latham

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Muse in December


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

Update: The Artist's Way Jan-March 2021 group has two slots left. If you're interested, please leave a comment, and I will send you the information. 

Wanted to share a little December from THIS POEM IS A NEST, art by Johanna Wright:

Isn't that sweet? :) 

And... here is a post I wrote over at Smack Dab in the Middle, about something I do every December.

I'm feeling a bit blue about my ArtSpeak: RED year coming to a close... I've enjoyed the energy of this color-themed-art-year so very much... and the slew of Richard Jones-inspired poems here at the end has been a lovely surprise! Today I've got a short one for all of us who enjoy creating. Thank you for reading. xo

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Birthday Poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the birthday girl Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

back cover D-39
(final will be in color)

I'm super-honored Mary Lee is hosting the cover reveal for D-39: A Robodog's Journey, my dystopian verse novel coming May 18, 2021. I hope you like it!

Cover art is by illustrator Jamie Green (learn a little about Jamie in Mary Lee's post as well!), the publisher is Charlesbridge, and it's a book I started out calling my boy-dog-war story... and then it morphed into the girl-robodog-war story you see depicted on the cover.  And it's so much more than that... about tinkering and heroes and made-up words and surprises and acceptance and love and friendship and finding one's way... I hope you'll give it a read! 

And if you'd like to review it on your blog, the publisher is offering digital galleys! You can email me irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com or leave a comment below.

Meanwhile: Thank you, Mary Lee!! My ArtSpeak: RED poetry offering today continues the birthday (and dog) theme. It's a revision of an e.e. cummings-inspired birthday poem I wrote a while back. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY LEE!

Dog's Birthday Song

to you happy birthday
on this most yippity day
stick a candle in every hour
lickety-sniffety every plate

to you happy birthday
in my teeth a thousand thank yous
for party-hats cake the universe you
on this most yippety day
for you i wish

- Irene Latham

p.s. in other happy news: THIS POEM IS A NEST was included on Kirkus' Best Middle Grade Books of the Year. Yay for poetry for middle grade! xo

Friday, November 27, 2020

Book + Gift = Happy Holidays! (2020 Gift Guide)

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

2020 has been some kind of year, hasn't it? I'm incredibly thankful to have had 4 books release this year. And since it's Black Friday, I'll be buying books for friends -- and  perhaps you will be, too! With that in mind, I thought I'd offer some shopping suggestions.

To pair with THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO, how about some cat-themed memo pads? Or adopt one of these adorable crochet kitties! Or (my favorite), these cat socks?

For DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD, I am loving this "Together We are Better" poster from SeasideShedStudio. (If you've read the last poem in the book --  a byte entitled "The Etymology of Progress," you'll know that's what Charles and I learned from our experience creating this book! Art by Mehrdokht Amini.)

To pair with THIS POEM IS A NEST, might I suggest this "Found Poem" t-shirt, available from TourDeBookshop which, when I discovered it, I promptly gifted myself?

Finally, for NINE: A BOOK OF NONET POEMS, try Play Nine (a card game!) and... if the recipient happens to be a 9-year-old child, you can't beat this "Nine Years/108 months/3,287 days/78,894 hours/4,733,640 minutes/284,018,400 seconds of Being Awesome" t-shirt available at Vintagestylearts! (Add to the fun by checking the math!)

And now, the latest installment of ArtSpeak: RED... inspired by another one of Richard Jones' illustrations! I was thinking about how the holidays can be difficult for many -- and for me, honestly  -- and I wanted to write a poem for us. Savvy readers will also notice that it's a tricube: 3 3-line stanzas, in which each line has 3 syllables.

Bear's Promise

When day bends
burnt yellow,
bear with me.

When red heart
hollows blue,
bear with me—

paintsplash skies
will arrive!

- Irene Latham

Friday, November 20, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED Bee + Apple = Love Poem!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Suzy at The Poetry Garden for Roundup.

Quickly, for my #NCTE20 peeps, here again is my schedule. I am excited to be learning from so many this weekend!

And here's an update for those of you who submitted to our IF anthology: we have our final contributor's list and are in the process of contacting all who submitted work. If you haven't heard from us already, you will very soon! Truly, it was an honor to read so many wonderful poems. I wanted to hug them (and you) all!

In other news, this pandemic year has meant lots of home improvement projects for us (and for many!)... this week we painted our kitchen cabinets! Well we didn't do it—Bruce & Mike did. Even if you're not putting in the brushstrokes, it can be kinda chaotic when you're kitchen is out of order! So I am feeling behind on pretty much everything. We're very much looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving here at the lake. I wasn't going to cook, then I was... and then I decided to go half-n-half: we ordered a turkey and a dessert, and I will make a few sides... including a new one called "Irene's Cranberry Salad," which my mom clipped for me from Guideposts magazine. I'll let you know how if it makes this Irene's tastebuds sing!

And now I'm pleased to offer you another red poem inspired by art created by Richard Jones. Thank you so much for reading this little love poem... are you the bee, the apple... or something else?? xo

Once Upon a Time
by Irene Latham

Bee spied something red—
Home is where the apple is, she said.

You are the heart of my desiring,
Red said, admiring each intricate wing.

Bee danced until the sky turned dizzy.
To think yesterday she'd been in such a tizzy!

Buzzily buzzily buzzily, Bee sighed.
Life is but a dream, Red replied,

for she knew bees could be capricious.
Still her cheeks blushed crimson delicious.

And so the day wept rain and laughter
as Bee + Red lived apple-y ever after.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Three New Poetry Books and ArtSpeak: RED poem "Water Lilies"

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

I'm excited to share with you some poetry books today. One you already know about, as many of you have poems included— congratulations!! The other two are from the UK, and I learned about them through the CLiPPA Awards. Beautiful books, all!

But first: my session info for #NCTE20. Our title was inspired by the poem "Remember" by Joy Harjo.

... also, good news for THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO: it's the winner of the 2020 Middle East Book Award (Middle East Outreach Council). Hooray! Also, the audiobook will soon be available (the narrator's voice is PERFECT, I say. PERFECT!), and it's been listed on Evanston Public Library's 101 Great Books for Kids of 2020. Yay for more folks discovering Alaa's amazing good works.

And now, the books. I selected 2 poems from each, just to whet your appetite. You'll want to add these to your holiday gift list for sure. Enjoy!

CHERRY MOON: Little Poems Big Ideas Mindful of Nature by Zaro Weil, illustrated by Junli Song

After the Purple Rains
by Zaro Weil

after the purple rains
restless clouds of
crayon-box wildflowers
hurtle and tumble
in between rock beds
over squelchy slopes
through stone walls
to up-pop
outside my window
how very luck-dazzle
how very spring

by Zaro Weil

said the wise-talking wind
to the seed
then rainumandgrowum
and infivehudredyearsum
a mighty great
forest you'llbeum

HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving
 by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, illustrations by Franzi Paetzoid

When I Move
by Carole Boston Weatherford

When I swim, I become a fish.
When I jump, I become a wish.
When I run, I become the heat.
When I dance, I become the beat.
When I bike, I become the wind.
When I flip, I become the spin.
When I lift, I become the strength.
When I stretch, I become the length.
When I grind, I'm beyond extreme.
When I climb, I behold my dream.
When I move, I'm a force so free
I feel the planet move with me.

Rabbit Dance
by Joseph Bruchac

Over the meadow
a full moon is shining
almost as bright as the sun.

It is the time when
the rabbits all gather
after the day's light is done.

Making a circle
they dance in the moonlight
hopping and stomping their feet,

hearing the music
that's kept in their hearts
moving to that ancient beat.

I've never seen them
dancing and dancing
but I know that it is so.

I've seen their footprints
all in a circle
there in the late winter snow.

 poems by Karmelo C. Iribarren, translated by Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Riya Chowdhury

What the Streetlight Says
by Karmelo C. Iribarren, translated by Lawrence Schimel

What a 
humiliating life:

by day
the dogs
and at night
the drunks.

wasn't I born
a table lamp?

by Karmelo C. Iribarren, translated by Lawrence Schimel

When night begins to fall
and the first apartments turn on their lights,
the buildings that border the plaza
look like gigantic crossword puzzles.

Finally, here's my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem. I'm so glad that several of you have discovered the padlet galleries -- I love seeing all that art in one place! Yes, please share these with students. Thank you!

This week, I've returned to Monet— and revised "red" to "pink" —all in the name of alliteration.:) 

I am hyper-aware that my "red" year will soon come to a close... just six more RED poems! Which art to choose, which art to choose? And... what should be my theme for 2021??? These are the questions... meanwhile, thank you so much for reading!

Water Lilies

Spring pond
dons glossy
green skirt
with plump

- Irene Latham

Friday, November 6, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "somewhere"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Susan at Soul Blossom Living for Roundup for what I think is her first Roundup. Yay!

What a strange week... I don't know about you, but it's been a bit hard to focus. I do have some happy book news to share:

THIS POEM IS A NEST received another starred review, this one from School Library Journal!  

★ "A beautiful, emotional, and incredibly creative poetry book that inspires reflection, dreaming, and writing. A must for libraries and schools."

Big smiles from this poet. :) :) :)

And... I got to kitten-sit for one night, which was absolutely delightful. Nothing quite as hopeful as a kitten!

Lacy! (my mom's new cuddle-love)

 Finally, here is my third poem in a row inspired by illustrations shared by Richard Jones on Twitter. Enjoy!


a world turns
without words
like lost,

we are not
by winter

each moment

as a red coat
with no pockets

- Irene Latham

Friday, October 30, 2020

A Trio of Poems to Get you: Voting / Dreaming / Listening to Owls

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup. I've got a trio of poems for you today:

1. Election Day / Go Vote poem (first published in Scholastic's Storyworks magazine):

 Election Day

Sift through promises,
replay interviews;

step inside the booth.
Forget scripted speeches

and candy-wrapped slogans.
Weigh again each pro

and con. Remember
the teeming world,

its people who dream
of freedom —

so many denied
the right to decide.

Read the names,
imagine a future;

make the best choice.
In the space between breaths

your voice is heard
without a word.

- Irene Latham

2. A Halloween Poem (a revision of a poem I posted in August last year... time and distance helps!)

October Dreams

Inside October
waits a field
of plump pumpkins

Inside a pumpkin
nests a clutch
of white seeds

Inside a seed
echoes a breath
of fresh hope

Inside hope
exists a world
of joined hands

Inside a hand
rests a spoon
to scoop a pumpkin

Inside a pumpkin
lives a lifetime
of Octobers

Inside October
sleeps a child
with orange dreams.

- Irene Latham

3. The latest ArtSpeak: RED poem, after a (dapper) owl by Richard Jones. This is my second Richard Jones offering... the first was last week's "Night Swimming," about writing. Today's poem a pure fun, because that's what this little owl inspires in me! Thank you so much for reading. xo

When Dapper Owl Dons a Hat

he wants you to say,
look at that!
He wants you
to point, giggle,
perhaps even clap.

And if indeed
you point, giggle, clap,
that owl might even
croon for you.
Listen —


- Irene Latham

Friday, October 23, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Night Swimming," with thanks to Richard Jones

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jama's Alphabet Soup for what's sure to be a delicious Roundup.

I'm taking a break from Monet to spend some time with a modern-day artist Richard Jones, who illustrated THE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG: And Other How-To Poems. He often posts art on Twitter, and lately some have featured the color red! With his permission, I snagged a few that called to my muse, and I'll be sharing those on coming Fridays.

Today's poem is inspired as much by the name of Richard's piece as the piece itself... I don't know about you, but most of my "night swimming" involves swimming in words... I often wake to record ideas/lines/book fixes in the Notes feature on my phone. So I wrote a poem about it. Enjoy!

Night Swimming

Poems find me
in the sigh

between red sky
and blue tide—

words swell,

a gleam
of quicksilver dreams

teeming inside
my heart.

- Irene Latham

Friday, October 16, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Monet's Haystacks"

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

Last week I traveled with my 23 year old son across north Alabama, and we passed quite a few hay fields. He was struck by the beauty of the big mounds beneath the brilliant autumn sky... and then when I went to my art file to select a piece of art, there was Monet's "Haystacks" waiting for me! What resulted is a very simple poem. Thanks so much for reading... wishing you a little something joyful simmering today (whatever that may be!)

Monet's Haystacks


     what's left

            of summer


- Irene Latham

Friday, October 9, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "A Traveling Song"

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Bridget at wee words for wee ones for Roundup.

Many thanks to Janet F. for encouraging me to make this How to Find Nestlings handout! Hopefully this will make it even easier for teachers/readers to experience the joy of found poetry. :)

Also, I invite you to visit Michelle Kogan for the final day of the THIS POEM IS A NEST blog tour. So many thanks to these fabulous bloggers! Be sure to visit Carol @ Beyond LiteracyLink to read her "gold-dust poem," too. 

Do you haiku?

Calling all haiku poets! Tuscaloosa Sister Cities International is accepting haiku (Japanese-style poetry) for our project, "Coming Together During a Global Pandemic". Haiku traditionally feature three lines of poetry, formatted in 5-7-5 syllable structure.
Shall we walk outside?
Yes, we can, but not too close.
Please maintain distance.
Haiku may be solemn, observational, experiential, or provocative in nature. What a productive way to share thoughts and experiences during these challenging days.All are welcome to participate.  Please submit your haiku by October 16, 2020, to and include your name and city.  TSCI plans to publish a booklet with the top 100 haiku at the end of the year!     

My latest ArtSpeak! RED poem is a short little love poem after a Monet I've never seen before. Be looking for more Monet in the coming weeks! 

A Traveling Song

I love you where the red road rambles,
I love you beside a sapphire sea.
Whether day brings blooms or brambles,
with you is where I want to be.
- Irene Latham

Friday, October 2, 2020

Snapshot of A World Full of Poems by Sylvia Vardell

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup. I'm delighted today to be featuring Sylvia Vardell in celebration of her new anthology A WORLD FULL OF POEMS, brought to us by DK. 

And, to make it even more fun: on this very same day, Sylvia is featuring *me* on her blog -- or rather, my new book THIS POEM IS A NEST.  :)

I'm so excited about Sylvia's new big book of poems. I often tell new-to-poetry people to start with an anthology, because no matter your tastes and inclinations, you will likely find something there to love! It's why I often gift anthologies, too. (I have, in fact, already ordered copies of Sylvia's book to gift this holiday season!) And what better person to curate a collection of poems than poetry-dress-wearing, poetry-expert-and-enthusiast Sylvia??! So let's get to it, shall we?

Welcome, Sylvia!

SV: Thanks so much, Irene, for inviting me to share a bit about my new poetry anthology, A World Full of Poems. It’s been such a privilege to work on this book, especially during the first months of this horrible pandemic. All that quarantining enabled me to hunker down and dive deeply into poetry for young people. I have my own substantial library of poetry for young people and pulled piles of books to search for poems, then more piles, then more poems, and so on. I was given the assignment of finding approximately 150 poems for this anthology from the editor in London who vetted all the poems (along with her staff). I think it may be the first anthology of poetry that DK Books has published, although I may be wrong about that. (Please let me know if I’ve got that wrong!) It was my task to recommend poem after poem as they sorted through what fit best for each of the eight categories they had established.

The Fresh (Unexpected):

One of the things that was particularly fresh and fun was seeking poems from poets outside the U.S., particularly from the UK. Fortunately, I have MANY anthologies and collections
and had fun reading and hunting for the “just right” poem. I only wish we could have had more time to include even MORE poems by MORE English-speaking poets outside the U.S. But I am so happy to find so many poems by so many diverse voices inside and outside the U.S.!

The Difficult:

SV: The most difficult part of this anthology building was finding perfect poems and then not being able to use them. Why? Including a poem in an anthology requires getting permission from the poet and usually from the publisher that originally included that poem in a book (unless it’s out of print and rights have reverted back to the poet). So, that means tracking down the permission source—both poet and publisher, sending inquiries, getting responses, and finding out the permission fee. DK Books had a limit to what they could pay for a poem (given that they wanted to include 150 poems). In most cases, it worked out just fine, but there were a few cases in which the fee was so high, it was beyond our budget. I shouldn’t be surprised that a poem by Langston Hughes or Pablo Neruda would cost quite a bit to include in an anthology, but I had high hopes!

The Delicious:

SV: One of my favorite things in this process is that I was able to secure permission to include two poems by one of my favorite poets: Karla Kuskin! She was one of the first contemporary poets writing for young people that I encountered as a brand new teacher in the 1970s. I had grown up on the classics (like Longfellow) and wasn’t aware that there were poets TODAY who wrote for young people—what a revelation! (This was around the same time of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1974; boy, do I feel OLD!). Although she has passed away, Kuskin’s poetry is still so relevant, engaging, and thoughtful. I hope I can help new readers fall in love with her work too. Here’s just one of her wonderful poems (and it appears in the book, too). 

Anything Else:

SV: Finally, my last task was creating some “activity” pages for the back of the book and you may know that I LOVE back matter! I went to town here and they ended up using about half of what I developed—which is fine. I made a poem “treasure hunt,” as well as providing tips on sharing and writing poems. I even had fun using Canva to create a graphic design for each page to show them how I thought these activities could be made more visually interesting and engaging for kids.

And now the book is coming out (Oct. 6) and I can’t wait to see it! I don’t have my copies yet, but I hope they arrive soon. I’m so happy to see 110 poets get their work out into the world and that DK Books has taken this chance on poetry when publishers are sometimes “shy” about doing so. Meanwhile, I just discovered that you can purchase the book on the Target website and that may be the craziest surprise of all!


Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing your book here today! And thank you for including two of my poems: "Summer Storm" and "Let's Celebrate the Elephant." YAY!!!

And now, my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem! I didn't know what to title this poem, and when I settled on "The Power of Art," I did an internet search on the same. I discovered this book that I immediately ordered! The power of art, indeed... also, you'll notice a little epigram "after Rilke." That's because of this Rilke quote which I adore, and sort of became the structure for the poem: I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” Thank you for reading!

The Power of Art
after Rilke

I stand in the gallery –
I stand, I sit.

I pace for a morning,
an afternoon,
all day.

And still I wonder:
am I the singing parakeet

or the artist's solemn

or something else,
dancing just outside
the frame?

- Irene Latham